Coeliacs at ‘an unnecessary disadvantage’ with Starbucks' oat milk, say UK charity

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©Starbucks
©Starbucks
Coeliac UK believe those afflicted with the condition have been overlooked by Starbucks' recent decision to introduce oat milk to their beverage offerings in the UK.

Responding to the coffee giant’s decision intended to meet the demand for more vegan options, the UK-based charity expressed concern that people requiring gluten-free were placed at a “real and unnecessary disadvantage”.  

“We have been in contact with Starbucks to understand the level of risk and been told that low levels of gluten may be found in these beverages due to the use of shared equipment, and that they highlight the allergen risk to customers,”​ said a spokesperson for Coeliac UK.

“We believe it should be possible to accommodate the needs of people with milk or dairy issues without cutting choice for people with a medical need for gluten free.”

Response to vegan consumers

The coffee chain has started to roll out its range of vegan option across its outlets throughout Europe in time for the New Year to now extend choice beyond almond (introduced in 2015), coconut and soya milk.

Oat is the latest alternative described by Starbuck’s as having a “mild, slightly sweet taste​” as well as being an alternative source of fibre.

Along with milk options, Starbucks has also introduced a new barbeque jackfruit wrap, filled with jackfruit, carrot and pureed sweetcorn slaw covered with a wheat seeded wrap.

But while the chain has been commended by vegans and environmentalists, coeliacs have expressed their displeasure at what they view to be an additional consideration when ordering a beverage.

“We will be urging Starbucks to reconsider its practices to ensure cross contamination risk is managed properly,”​ the spokesperson said.

“In the meantime, as we do not know the levels of gluten involved, we advise our members to be aware of this risk in making purchasing decisions regarding these products.”

“We will keep our community informed as we know more.”

High street coffee shop efforts

Starbucks along with high-street regulars Costa and Caffé Nero have made significant strides in recent years to introduce gluten-free products to their range.

Examples of Starbucks’ food that is gluten-free include Chicken & Pesto Gluten Free Panini, its Veggie Good Falafel Wrap and Gluten Free Avocado and Three Bean Wrap.

However, on its website the coffee chain stated that “we cannot guarantee that any of our beverages are free from allergens (including milk, eggs, soya, nuts, peanuts, gluten and others)”.

“We use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them.”

Meanwhile Costa’s Gluten-Free Chicken & Basil Salad Wrap boasts a seal of approval that permits them to carry the Crossed Grain symbol on its packaging to highlight the product’s credentials.

Also certified dairy-free, the coffee chain added: “Costa are the first UK coffee shop to offer a Coeliac Society approved product, and we’ve been working hard to make sure that there’s something for everyone on our savoury menu.”

Nutritional information gleamed from Caffè Nero indicates its chai latte with skimmed, semi skimmed and soya milk, is gluten free.

Food-wise its range of gluten-free products include its chicken-pesto sandwich, club roll and mozzarella, basil and tomato roll.

“Allergies and special dietary requirements are taken very seriously at Caffè Nero,”​ the coffee chain states on its website.

Similar to Starbucks, they added that: “Unless otherwise stated, we cannot guarantee a 100% allergen free environment in our stores, and some equipment may be used for more than one product”.

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