Food Babe Investigates: Sabotaged at Starbucks

This is a guest post from Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe) and New York Times Best Selling author. You can read more about her take on the food industry in her second book, Feeding You Lies!

Trying to get through the maze of what is offered at Starbucks can be pretty daunting – hopefully this information will clear up any nagging thoughts about what’s REALLY in their food and drinks. I couldn’t help but shake my head at the things I uncovered, which had me asking – how many times have people unknowingly gotten sabotaged at Starbucks?

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Starbucks was using crushed up bugs to color their Strawberry Frappuccinos. Luckily, they responded to the public outcry and eliminated that beetle juice. You’d think they would have taken the time to clean up the rest of their menu, but no such luck.

Did you know that Starbucks uses ingredients that are scarier than bugs and could even be harmful to your health? That’s where the real sabotage begins…

Top 5 Ways To Get Sabotaged At Starbucks:

1. Coffee

You might think it is a bit radical to suggest not drinking their most prized ingredient that makes over 85,000 different combination of drinks, but it’s also radical drinking and paying a premium for coffee that’s ridden with potential toxins.

Let’s get real here, they do not actually serve organic coffee at most Starbucks locations, which means (like all brands of conventional coffee) it’s been sprayed with pesticides. We all know Starbucks coffee ain’t cheap, but most people don’t know that regular consumption of conventional coffee can be a serious source of pesticide exposure.

Starbucks coffee is grown all over the world in developing nations. The United States doesn’t regulate the type and amount of pesticides foreign countries use in their production of coffee beans, which makes consuming non-organic coffee on a regular basis pretty risky.

You could be drinking toxins from pesticides that are in fact banned here in the United States but not else where, like the pesticide Chlorpyrifos that is a contact poison. It has caused human deaths, and has been linked to birth defects. It is extremely toxic to birds, freshwater and marine organisms, bees, and other wildlife.

Furthermore, we know that increased exposure to pesticides are linked to birth defects, nerve damage and cancer. The President’s Cancer Panel has urged us not to consume food sprayed with pesticides and doesn’t believe any amount is safe.

And in regards to their decaf… did you know that conventional decaffeinated coffees are made decaf by soaking the beans with a chemical called ethyl acetate used in nail polish and glues and a carcinogen called methylene chloride?

2. Soy Latte (or anything else with Starbucks organic soy milk)

Logically, it makes sense to choose organic soy milk, since Starbucks decided to eliminate organic cow’s milk as an option a few years ago. But not so fast. Starbucks organic soy milk has one ingredient they would rather you not know about.

This ingredient was recently highlighted in a report generated by the Cornucopia Institute and echoed in a recent NYTimes article about non-organic ingredients allowed in organic food. One of those questionable ingredients is carrageenan, which is derived from seaweed and is in Starbucks branded organic soy milk. This substance is reported to cause intestinal inflammation and can be become a carcinogen once it is digested.

How such an ingredient became allowed in organic food is bigger than just Starbucks. However, companies ultimately make the decision to use or not to use these harmful ingredients.

Carrageenan can also be found in other Starbucks food and drink products including their cakes, scones, yogurt and Light Frappuccinos.

3. Baked Goods & Other Food Offerings

Sure, Starbucks made a commitment a couple of years ago to eliminate transfat, artificial colors, and high fructose corn syrup from their food products. They said they listened to us and responded.

However, I think Starbucks may need a hearing aid. Just because a company gets rid of certain ingredients doesn’t automatically make the food completely natural or “real”.  For instance, the Reduced Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake has over 75 ingredients!

Ingredients in Starbucks food products still include:

  • Refined FloursWhite flour that has been stripped of its nutrients and provides nothing but empty calories that contribute to chronic disease & obesity.
  • Chemically Derived Sugars – Some products like the lemon pound cake contain 6 different types of processed sugars (e.g. powdered sugar, glycose syrup, corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, etc.).
  • Preservatives – The Mayo Clinic reported that the preservative sodium benzoate (an ingredient found in the Iced Lemon Pound Cake) may increase hyperactivity in children. Also, when sodium benzoate combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) benzene can form a carcinogen and kill DNA cells, accelerating aging.
  • Growth Hormone  Starbucks has eliminated growth hormone milk in their core dairy products, but not in their food products. That means you could be still be ingesting a substance that has been reported to cause breast, colon and prostate cancers.
  • Cellulose Gum – This a filler made from wood pulp your body can’t even digest.
  • Proplyene Glycol – This is an ingredient in the Apple Fritter and Reduced Fat Cinnamon Swirl Cake, which is derived from petroleum and a key chemical that is used to make anti-freeze.
  • Azodicarbonamide – This substance, found in Starbucks croissants, is banned in the U.K., Europe and Australia, and if used in Singapore can result in fines up to $450,000 and a 15 year prison sentence! This ingredient has been reported to cause asthmatic symptoms in people who inhale it and can also increase certain food sensitivities.
  • Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs) -Several of the listed ingredients are likely genetically modified. We’ll never know for sure how much of Starbucks products are genetically modified since they are currently not required to be labeled in this country. But we do know that the consumption of GMO foods poses a serious threat to our health and have been linked to toxicity, allergic reactions and fertility issues.
  • Cheap Oils  Soy, canola or corn oil can be found in almost all of Starbucks’ products. Over-consumption of these cheap oils are causing an abundance of Omega 6 fatty acids in our diets. The imbalance of Omega 6 fatty acids increases the risk of inflammation, heart disease, obesity, and prostate and bone cancer.

4. “Refreshers” Beverage

This brand new drink that just came out last week gives the allure of fresh and real, but it’s anything but. The ingredients are the same for both flavors of the refresher drinks.

What?  How can one taste like “Cool Lime” and the other one taste like “Berry Hibiscus” when they have both have the same base ingredients? Huh?  Looking at the two different boxes these “handcrafted” drinks came out of, the ingredients read:

Starbucks Refreshers Beverage: Water, Sugar, White Grape Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Natural Green Coffee Flavor, Citric Acid, Erythritol, Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid E300), Rebaudioside A (Stevia)

Starbucks calls white grape juice concentrate (which involves heating the juice to high temperatures and adding some chemicals to get a more condensed product) “real fruit juice.”  

The only difference between the two drinks was the addition of freeze dried lime to one drink and freeze dried blackberries to the other. I guess that explains how they “handcraft” it.  McDonalds must also handcraft their burgers when they put the bun on them, huh?

It is interesting that Green Coffee Extract was not actually in the drink like they advertise. It is included in the refresher products they sell packaged in the store, but not in the version baristas make behind the counter. Is this their way of tricking us into buying a cheaper derivative of Green Coffee – just the flavor and not the extract?

When I realized that both drinks contained added sugar as the second ingredient and “natural flavor,” I immediately knew this drink was pure JUNK. Manufactured natural flavor is contributing to what David Kessler (former head of the FDA) calls a “food carnival” in your mouth.  This makes it difficult to stop eating or drinking because the flavors they have synthesized trick your mind into wanting more and more.

Starbucks doesn’t give us the full essence of a hibiscus or cucumber mint – just the best 1 millionth part of the taste – so we only want more of that product, which in turns fills Starbucks’ pockets. When companies use manufactured flavor, they literally are “hijacking” your taste buds one-by-one.

Please note, natural flavor is found in almost all of Starbucks products, not just this new drink. Their smoothies are also made with a product that comes from a box and contains juice concentrate with natural flavors and natural color as opposed to 100% real fruit.

I should also note that their mocha chocolate sauce, used to flavor many drinks and their chocolate smoothie, still contain high fructose corn syrup, too. They haven’t eliminated high fructose corn syrup in their drinks, only their food. This is yet another marketing trick Starbucks has played on us.

5. Frappuccinos

Did you know the CEO of Starbucks doesn’t even drink Frappuccinos? And I think I’ve figured out why. Frappuccinos are full of refined sugar, natural and artificial flavors, and a substance called caramel coloring. California recently included caramel coloring on its annual list of carcinogens that require warning labels.

This type of caramel isn’t the stuff you make at home by cooking sugar. This caramel color is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creates carcinogenic compounds. Caramel color is classified into four different classes; Class IV being the worst and the one that is listed on the Starbucks Frappuccino label. 

Whether you choose the regular or light version of a Frappuccino, you are getting a dose of this known carcinogen proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumorsin rats and mice.

When The Center for Science in the Public Interest studied two different brands of soda earlier this year, they found that both had dangerous levels of caramel coloring and could be contributing to thousands of cancers in the US. This prompted Coke and Pepsi to quickly change their formulas so they didn’t have to include the cancer warning label on their products in California.

I wonder what level of carcinogenic compounds a Frappuccino has, don’t you? Maybe someone should test it. I think it should be removed altogether from the FDA’s approved list of additives considering this substance is only added for cosmetic reasons and serves no real purpose!

Frappuccinos aren’t the only products at Starbucks that contain caramel coloring, the “Perfect” Oatmeal even has it! This is alarming to say the least, considering the oatmeal is one of the most popular and “safer” sounding menu items at Starbucks.

To quote Starbucks, “The most important meal of the day is the first. So why not make it nutritious and delicious?” I’m not sure if consuming carcinogens first thing in the morning is really nutritious, are you?

Despite all these ways in which Starbucks can sabotage me, I still like to use their free internet. Many of the stores now carry bananas, organic dried fruit, and some quality granola bars without synthetic ingredients that I would buy if I needed a snack. I always read the label no matter what I am buying just to be sure.

My favorite treat to get at Starbucks is absolutely free. They will give a cup of hot water to anyone that asks. Since I always carry a few extra bags of organic tea with me, I know I can always have a healthy beverage on the go from Starbucks for free anytime I like. I also like to use this free hot water option to make my own quick cooking oatmeal without carcinogenic caramel coloring!

But if you aren’t a tea drinker and are still clamoring for a Frappuccino, but don’t want to consume harmful ingredients…I’ve got a couple of recipes for you! Try my Homemade Organic Frappuccino with no refined sugars, artificial colors, flavors or carcinogens today or try Lisa’s Maple Mocha. Both of these recipes are so easy to make, you’ll never have to worry about getting sabotaged at Starbucks again.

Comments have been closed on this article, which was written by Vani Hari. If you have a question or comment you can reach her at

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261 thoughts on “Food Babe Investigates: Sabotaged at Starbucks”

  1. So Food Babe and 100 Days are not gaining financially at all by giving you this information? No ulterior motives to sell their book/recipes/websites?? Seems like someone always wins here and this is not just being done to “inform the public”. If your motives were really altruistic you wouldn’t try to SELL an alternative!

  2. Also they use artificial vanilla. I wanted to get a mocha, but the chocolate syrup has vanillin in it (so does the vanilla syrup.) So basically they use a bunch of cheap, extremely low-quality ingredients, but dress them up with fancy packaging and slick advertising, and charge a PREMIUM price for them. They LOOK and TASTE really good, because that’s what all of those chemicals are designed to do – make cheap lousy ingredients fool you. Fool you into hurting your health and paying big bucks for it.

  3. I like to drink a decaf mocha coffee from Starbucks, but can’t anymore because it instantly makes me feel sick and get anxiety. I am very sensitive to chemicals and I can tell Starbucks is full of them.

  4. So, apologies for the rant, here, but I have to echo the sentiments of John and Jason–this article is a classic example of somebody falling into the “they’re a big corporation, so they must be evil” mindset; this is counterproductive as it effectively penalizes a company even when they do the right thing. Starbucks is in fact *known* for their sustainable coffee sourcing practices (we studied them in my graduate program) as they go above and beyond what is required for organic. The issue with ‘certified organic’ is that the cost of the certification is usually born completely by the farmer. This process is expensive and lengthy and in effect excludes most small farms in the coffee-producing countries. Starbucks has instead assumed the costs associated with developing standards, educating farmers, and documenting the processes all the way down their supply chain. Their standards also include things like preserving biodiversity and conserving water resources (both very big deals given the steps involved in coffee production) while ‘organic’ is generally defined only as an absence of pesticides. Basically, they’re better than organic, they just don’t have a pretty sticker slapped on the side of the bag.

    It’s also clear that the author has done zero research on pesticide use and the end effect on coffee. Coffee production involves picking the berries, removing the flesh (in “wet processing” this is done with lots and lots of possibly-contaminated water) and then drying and/or fermenting the seeds to get what we call beans. After all of this processing, and being shipped around the world, they are then roasted at high heat, effectively denaturing any chemicals they may have absorbed during the growth process. If anything, if you’re trying to limit your chemical exposure, then I’d be much more worried about what the beans are exposed to *after* they are picked, not pesticides that may have been used on the outsides of the plants during growth. If you want to limit your chemical exposure, focus on organic choices for things like strawberries…not coffee. If you worry about pesticides because of their holistic effect on the ecosystem, then you should run, not walk, to Starbucks for beans, since their coffee is not only pesticide-free, but also grown using practices that support the whole ecosystem.

    Side note–for the love of god, can we stop this hysterical myth about Starbucks putting crushed bugs in things? Cochineal extract has been around since the 15th century and is a naturally-derived liquid dye. Yes, it is derived from the shells (just the shells) of the cochineal beetle, but to say that they’re “putting crushed bugs in things” is like saying that somebody in a pearl necklace has “a bunch of oysters around their neck.”

    Ironically, the company chose cochineal extract because they wanted to avoid using potentially carcinogenic things made in a lab (like red dye #40), but then they got jumped on for ‘tricking vegans’ in their role as ‘the big evil corporation,’ again. Can we start acknowledging the positive, if imperfect, efforts of companies instead of making ill-informed, knee-jerk statements like the ones in this article? Other companies looking at ‘journalism’ like this would be justified in thinking “Why even try?”

  5. What i think is hilarious, is everyone wants to attack big huge food related corporations for having GMO’s in their foods…. well I’m sorry it’s not Starbucks, McDonalds or even your grocery store you need to be lynching, It’s Monsanto. Do you realize that 98% of our soy beans grown in the US and in Canada are grown from Monsanto seeds? Think about it, if 98% of the soy beans, and soy is in everything from our food to feed for livestock, in the US are GMOs then what makes you think there is anyway a large company can be supplied with enough organic dairy to meet the needs of the public…they can’t not until Monsanto is stopped. You want to change things? You want all organic foods? Great, but go to the source of the problem. At this point any business that is involved with food is going to have items that have preservatives and GMO’s in them, it almost can’t be helped. The only way to ensure that you are eating completely organic is to grow your own and only go small restaurants, farmer markets and shops. But please stop attacking these companies about GMOs like they’re the culprit, go kick Monsanto’s ass then maybe we can change something.

  6. I got a reply today after I petitioned to CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz. Here is what I wrote back to their mechanical, yet friendly reply: “Thank you Amy F. from customer service [and Howard Schultz, with whom I addressed my original inquiry for replying.] Dear Starbucks I am grateful for your reply to my request for GMO free milk to be used in your coffee beverages and I would also like to add GMO free syrups. The truth is Starbucks may offer their customers options and informed decisions to a degree, but they do not allow full options of true whole foods, that choice simply is not available. The authentic cultural coffee experience is that of whole beans roasted artfully as a true barista knows by practice, and of course authentic organic milk which is free from the source of GMO feeds from the cows whom are graciously providing milk for the service of such a giant corporation such as you are dear Starbucks. How grateful we should be first and utmost to the creatures that provide such giving milk, may the farmers and corporations involved have the compassion to give these creatures the quality of life that they deserve as created beings and the organic feed that they need to live a nourished life, as well as, supplying healthful dairy products to the businesses that their milk is supplied to… and this is, simply, not what you provide dear Starbucks, you simply do not meet the bar! I dare say that you have the place, the position, as a coffee leading corporation to make a loud voice in our society and to lead the way towards authenticity. Many coffee companies cannot say, “Yes, we are fully GMO free with our products, our dairy and syrups and drinks and pastries” This is, in the full picture, a special experience to find. However, the movement is growing and more so “mom and pop” shops/small businesses are catering to the TRUE desire of the people whom seek authenticity in their daily cup of coffee and dining experiences. The small business owners are looking after the masses far better than larger influential companies such as yourself. I do not say that as an insult, I say that as an encouragement to jump onto the movement for pure foods and lead the way, be the special experience that you sought to be at the root of Starbucks’ beginning days! Can you imagine, if Starbucks, actually became the company it claims to be… can you imagine a company with as much power and influence that you have and all of a sudden we see a striking leader within the food and drink industry that shows forth true vulnerability and authenticity which brings forth whole foods and true quality of life within the edible items offered to the people. When did food become so fake? When did life become so artificial? How did we sell ourselves, our souls, to such mass quantity productivity to the point of accepting such waste. Waste to our future as we daily digest toxins into our bodies. We are what we eat and drink. May you be the ones who do not regret standing at the forefront of change. You are at the plateau of change right now and may you be the ones who raise the flag of love, peace and generosity and stand with the people on this one. Let us stand together for the future of truthful and life-giving food and drink. We CAN do this! We can say no to GMO’s in our food systems.
    – Mother, Teacher, Student, Activist Jenny Foster-Stewart

    1. If you want to really get change, you need to attack the source of all GMO products, not just the companies that sell products. Take your complaint to Monsanto, join March against Monsanto. You sitting here and writing Starbucks about not serving Organic Milk doesn’t change the facts that 98% of our soy beans in the US and Canada are now Monsanto crops, meaning 98% of all soy used in just about everything from our food to food for livestock (cow feed) is GMO soy. Do you not realize that for one national company to be able to offer completely organic foods, enough to meet the demand, would be impossible … there is no way that the 2% of actual non GMO feed cattle and soy is going to be able to supply all of us not to mention a national chain of any kind. So stop wasting your time if your a true activist, as you claimed to be at the end of your post, then find a March against Monsanto, and join the rest of us that aren’t brow beating a company for serving what they can, and doing better then many many many other companies, and find a March against Monsanto group in your are. If you don’t have one start one. Effect some real change instead of just reading an article that is two years old and acting like your doing something. Open your eyes people, The GMO problem is way bigger then just one company.

  7. WOW HOW DECIVING,is there nothing they would do for$$$$$$
    With no regard for the people WELL I AM TURNED OFF NO

  8. Jennifer Campbell

    I can clearly see this is an old article so aside from the food which has all changed I will address a few things here. First whoever told you there was supposed to be cucumber or mint in a cool lime refresher is an idiot the fruit in the picture is a slice of freeze dried lime not a cucumber and some people think they taste mint in it but no mint was advertised as part of the drink (as you pointed out) there is none. I used to work with a barista who would say that and I kept telling her to quit saying that since there isn’t any, it tastes peppery to me but there is no pepper, just because you think you taste something doesn’t make it so. Therefore you have a dumb as rocks barista or you are making assumptions. Second you can avoid the caramel color in Frappuccino by getting the creme base put in, yes I understand it shouldn’t be there anyway and it is a terrible ingredient but there is a way to avoid it. Next do you know the old saying “when you assume you make an ass out of you and me”? I know you are trying to make an assumption that Howard Schultz doesn’t drink Frappuccino because of the refined sugar but you should have just left that out,you are speculating. In the past you put up completely false information about what was in the mocha syrup that is used in the stores and you posted ingredients to a syrup that is sold on the website and has never been used in stores. You seem to only go so far in your “research” and when you think you have found a smoking gun you publish without making sure you have the correct information, again with the exception of the food which is all 100% different you have it wrong or have left out information. I am not saying many ingredients couldn’t use an overhaul because they could and many have gotten it.I think it is however funny that you post a picture of yourself at Starbucks and you don’t bother pointing out any alternatives or good products. Have you had the Evolution Harvest bars or nuts? I guess it’s hard to find the good alternatives when you are only looking for bad.

  9. Well, Stu who is 82 you’re lucky, because when we had our horticultural establishment and sprayed the ground we didnt notice until later that it was causing our son to have dreadful coughing fits (and a tic) and my husband thinks it has upset his digestive system for ever, breathing in these sprays – and they’re apparently used by Starbucks and their suppliers….

  10. I soon will be 82. I avoid sugars and thing’s that will turn to sugar. I’ve worked with chemical pesticides my whole adult life. I’m still alive and in great health. Plants produce pesticides to ward-off pests. You’ll not get away from these chemical’s simply be “going Organic”. The human body is a remarkable thing.. . unless allergies are involved, toxins within recognized tolerances, found in food, are routinely excreted. Actually, in the array of foods offered to todays consumers, as an overwhelming general rule, no one ever needs to be concerned about pesticides.

    Those using scare tactic’s to warn consumers of the dangers lurking in todays foods aren’t telling us about about chemicals, like aspirin, used responsibly in our everyday lives, will kill humans at a higher dosage . Many have died from acute aspirin toxicity. Here’s the clincher.. . most pesticides are safer [look it up on line] or as safe as aspirin.

    Relax .. enjoy your food!!

  11. You need to do your research are not very well informed. Some of these things are true but the pesticides in our coffee is not true at all. I work for Starbucks and have researched and studied how we got out coffee and our standards are higher then what calls for it to be organic certified. They do not spray the coffee cherries! Do some real research before you start claiming you know everything about Starbucks and their standards.

  12. Do they offer any healthy and or organic teas? Do they at least filter their water? There’s a big difference between making tea with filtered or unfiltered water. you can usually taste the difference

  13. Do you even know all of your facts? Starbucks uses organic coffee ethically grown from around the world. It is organic until the beans are ground in the store and then the only reason it isn’t organic is bc it was “processed” or ground. Anyone who can read can see that on their pounds of coffee that it is all organic. You’re being way too dramatic in this article. What other facts may you be wrong about?

  14. Some of this is true. Some of this the author has made a big deal over nothing. If you care enough about the things in this article, then the answer is to think “eco vegan”.

    All will make sense right away.

  15. You should consider siting some credible sources for the claims you make regarding the health effects /dangers of additives and ingredients. Cellulose is what makes up the cell walls of green plants. And you’re right, our bodies cannot digest it because we lack the enzyme to do so. Which is what gives leafy greens the benefit of being a source of insoluble dietary fiber.


  17. So you bring your own teabag, Ask for free not water and use their free WIFI- that’s why some paying customers can’t find a seat there….

  18. This is extremely disturbing. I drink starbucks coffe practically every day. I had already heard that soy isn’t good at least, so I always ask for nonfat milk..but still. Will all the pesticides, corn syrup, artficial makes me wonder if this is the reason that my dad died of colon and rectal cancer. He had Starbucks everyday.

  19. oh my gosh. my eyes have been opened beyond belief. i am so glad you came up on my google search. thank you for taking the time to research, investigate, and publish this information.

  20. I know your article is about the Starbucks drinks served at their coffee bars which I stopped patronizing after once watching the man mix up a cappuccino for me. The only ingredient I recognized was the banana. But what about the bags of coffee? For years I had been drinking Starbucks Breakfast Blend coffee and loved it. Suddenly, a year ago, it just didn’t taste right any more. I switched to another brand which did all right but wasn’t like the old Starbucks. Recently I decided to try Starbucks again. Whatever are they doing? The coffee has gone absolutely tasteless. It doesn’t even smell like coffee. I can’t begin to guess. Long ago, I gave up another brand of coffee because it smelled so strongly of insecticide. But, this Starbucks has no smell at all as well as no taste.

    Is there a real coffee on the market? I’d like to find it, if there is.

  21. While I find some of this information informative I also find a good portion of it to simply not be true and based on assumptions and old info. For starters their current oatmeal does not have caramel coloring and has not for quite some time. Second, the author assumes that just because coffee is coming from a developing country it must be covered in pesticides. Simply not true. About 90% of the coffee you get at Starbucks or any higher end cafe is organic. It is just not certified organic. It costs around $40,000-60,000 US dollars for a single farm to become certified organic, no matter if a farm has 20 acres or just 2. When it comes down it feeding your family or being certified organic, what do you think you would choose? I actually did a research paper for a senior project on Starbucks and had the opportunity to visit one of their coffee farms in Guatamala. It was amazing the difference between one of the farms they buy from and one just down the road that they don’t. They also give small farm operations business loans so they can harvest when their crops are at the best, they require farmers to farm in a way that does not destroy the land/ rain forest, and they require the farmers to pay their workers a decent wage. They have farmer support centers and help build schools in these small poor communities…. The next time you buy some random coffee from another place why don’t you try to find out what the company purchasing that coffee did for their farmers/environment/ community. Just because a coffee is certified organic does not mean that precious resources weren’t destroyed to plant there or that all the workers received a fair wage. When I started my senior project I was not a fan of Starbucks. But through my own research (based in fact, not guess work) I did become a fan. Now they do some really crappy things with crushing unions and don’t pay their managers industry rates anymore but that is for a different post.

  22. Thanks so much for the info. Love your site! I don’t have Starbucks in my town but I’m really missing my Kwik Trip cappuccino. Love the taste but it makes me feel horrible after drinking it & finally was able to quit. Any real food alternatives for a cappuccino lover (haven’t ever been able to drink coffee) thanks!

  23. Food Babe – I love you! It may be a coincidence, but over 10 years ago I had a downtown job with a Starbucks on every corner, so I was in the habit of treating myself to a mocha or caramel latte (without whipped cream) every morning for a number of years. Surprisingly, I was diagnosed with cancer several years later. I was shocked because it was not in our family. I worked out, I ate an apple a day, consumed very little meat, ate lots of soy and soy products, expensive veggies, fruits, etc. They say you give yourself cancer, which is probably true — because of our food and environment. Big industry is making us sick! I realize that our environment, food, and consumer goods (from other countries) have toxins and are slowly killing the U.S. population. Thank you for letting us know how to stay healthy, to get involved in our food options, to sign petitions to keep GMO’s out of our food, and demand the same “clean” products that the UK, Canada, and Japan are already consuming. The Kraft mac & cheese really made me mad. We are not lab rats!

  24. Sure! I’d be happy to. I read this on 100 days of food and tracked it back to Food Babe. Then I contacted Starbucks directly, both going into their stores and calling their helpline. I even contacted their Corporate offices in Seattle. Here’s what I found:

    STARBUCKS OATMEAL DOES NOT CONTAIN CARAMEL COLORING. It may have in the past, I don’t know. Food Babe has not published her sources. I have photographs from Starbucks of their Oatmeal and Toppings that clearly state there is no caramel coloring.

    I’m asking for a retraction because it is vital we acknowledge the importance of accurate information. Food Babe wrote the original post, and two other websites have repeated her information. If Starbucks has changed their recipe, as Food Babe claims, the onus is on her to post an update, hopefully giving them praise for their healthy change!

    Food Babe wrote:
    “Frappuccinos aren’t the only products at Starbucks that contain caramel coloring, the “Perfect” Oatmeal even has it! This is alarming to say the least, considering the oatmeal is one of the most popular and “safer” sounding menu items at Starbucks. To quote Starbucks, “The most important meal of the day is the first. So why not make it nutritious and delicious?” I’m not sure if consuming carcinogens first thing in the morning is really nutritious, are you?”

    1. But fear mongering is so much more driving than credible sources and accurate information! Didn’t you know?

      1. Mike, I really don’t want to think that, but since Food Babe refuses to answer I have no other choice. It’s upsetting to me because she really has opened a lot of eyes about our food and that’s so important! But I cannot continue to use her as a source because her accuracy is unreliable.

        Food Babe, is it really easier not to acknowledge you were wrong?

      2. Mike – (1) you either work for a large food company, in which case you are “astroturfing” here and trying to drum up eye rolls and encourages repeat behavior from consumers that is counter to their best interest. OR (2) You are so entrenched in your behavior, you fear what you cannot change.

        Either way, I feel sorry for you. Starbucks just lost a long-time customer in me (and trust me, I’m what there marketing hacks call an “influencer”. They can’t get away with hiding under a corporate responsibility halo when they misbehave as they do. FoodBabe may be wrong about 20% of what’s posted above, but that doesn’t absolve Starbucks.

  25. I just went to Starbucks and wanted a sugarfree beverage and so the lady suggested the Lime Refresher.. she stated it was sweetend with Stevia.. It was pretty good but I have had stevia and it leaves an aftertaste this drink on the other hand did not… I can not find anywhere on their website what that particular beverage is sweetend with… Do you happen to know ?

  26. I am SO glad you posted this! I started drinking decaf soy latte’s at Starbucks and was totally addicted after a couple of days! THEN I stopped losing weight!

    1. A decaf soy latte would not keep you from losing weight, unless you drank 40 a day – and the “addiction” is due to the fact that they’re GOOD. I’m “addicted” to apple pie right now because there’s an apple pie available in my house and the slices are good. Uh oh, I need another fix right now…

  27. Uh – I hate to tell the author of this article not to be getting water from them either. I just read an article that a Starbucks in Hong Kong was using water from the bathroom to brew their coffee. I also read that their ice is dirty too. So can’t even trust the water from there.

  28. I appreciate the info on Starbucks, though I hardly ever frequent them. I do think their soy milk is tastier than what Peet’s or other coffee houses uses. As gross as some of the additives are that Starbucks uses, I find it disingenuous to complain about

    1. White flour. Even organic bakeries use that. Duh!
    2. Cellulose gum. The fact that it is not digestible only puts it on par with wheat bran and psyllium husks. Cellulose gum is far preferable for my stomach than inflammatory wheat bran.
    3. Cheap oils. Lots of organic products use organic canola or soy oils (which are still inferior even when organic).

  29. I e-mail them regarding Tazo teabags and this is the e-mail I received. What do you think? Not sure why they kept referring to Australia/New Zealand when I am in the US…

    Are any of your tea bags GMO free? And if not what makes them genetically modified?


    Greetings Jeanette!

    Thank you for contacting Starbucks.

    Starbucks has reviewed all of its coffees and teas and confirmed that none include genetically engineered ingredients. Furthermore, Starbucks does not support research that would lead to genetically engineered coffee or tea products.

    Starbucks has adopted as our standard the most stringent food labeling regulations in the world today, the Australia/New Zealand Food Association (ANZFA) labeling regulations. These regulations require labeling for all genetically engineered materials except for highly refined minor ingredients, such as corn starch, that may be derived from genetically engineered material, but contain no such matter. Such ingredients are indistinguishable from these same ingredients derived from non-genetically engineered material. Whenever highly refined minor ingredients are used in our products, we verify that they are free of any genetically engineered material. For more information about the ANZFA regulations, visit

    Starbucks has also completed a review of other beverage ingredients and all were found free of genetically engineered material except for one beverage ingredient, which has been reformulated to eliminate any risk of that material. We also completed a review of our non-beverage products and confirmed that those products do not require labeling under ANZFA regulations.

    Starbucks is committed to ensure the safety of the food we offer for sale to our customers. In all cases, Starbucks will continue to monitor its products against ANZFA requirements and will conform to applicable regulations and labeling requirements in all the countries in which we do business.

    Thanks again for writing us. If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


    Victor L

    customer service

    1. “Starbucks has adopted as our standard the most stringent food labeling regulations in the world…”

      That’s why they reference Australia and New Zealand… they have the most stringent labeling regulations in the world. It’s their way of saying that they hold their company to the highest of labeling standards… and the U.S. does not have the highest standards.

  30. In response to your comment about Cellulose Gum:
    Our body doesn’t digest fiber, but I don’t see arguing against that.

  31. Thanks for the article! We stopped frequenting Starbucks years ago mainly due to the fact that they do not serve organic coffee among other reasons. However, one thing people should also be aware of is that, according to recent California Proposition 65 findings, all brewed coffee can be carcinogenic. In fact, the law has made it mandatory for coffee shops to display warning signs to inform people about the presence of the carcinogen, Acrylamide (Proposition 65 requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm). This toxic chemical is not added to coffee, rather it is created via the roasting of the beans and is found in high-carbohydrate foods baked or fried at high temperatures as well. You can read more about this here:

  32. While I find your post on Starbucks very informative, I also find it quite distasteful and hypocritical to bring of your own teabag and buying a small piece of fruit just to use the free internet.

    1. She is there doing her research and trying to make a better life for you people who don’t know anything about what’s going into your mouth! She is trying to say that there ARE healthy options at Starbucks, just not the ones that they heavily advertise. You are distasteful.

      1. Regardless, have to agree with the lack of class in bringing your own food and/or drinks into an establishment – especially to capitalize on customer perks, and even further when pointing out the negatives of said establishment. If there are healthy options available, then those can be purchased instead as a balanced way to do good research at the same time as respect the services that are being offered.

      2. Agreed with Sandra. Regardless of what “important research” she’s doing (that could be done just as well from home), she’s ethically failing here. Bereft of class. On that note, I want to include that the snarky/smart-ass tone in this article brought me down. I went looking for information about the dangers in some of Sbux’s products, which I found, but it could have been put together in a much more convincing manner without all the “attitude” the author added… leaving me NOT to wonder why only a few hundred people have cared enough about the article to comment. When you make yourself sound just as childish as your target is unhealthy, well then… who the hell do I believe? I’m going to get a latte. Nice, seemingly biased, semi-informative article, led by the girl taking up a whole table in the lobby.

  33. They have a blueberry bar with ‘organic’ blueberries. I don’t buy it, both literally and figuratively…

  34. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have changed the way that my family and I eat and you are helping me to make sure that I raise my 17 month old daughter in a healthy environment. You are fantastic!!

  35. Melinda Gonzalez

    I applaud food babe for how she handles all these comments coming from every direction. It would be hard for me to keep my cool… in fact I know I wouldn’t, LOL.

    I will say, sometimes I do get irritated because it seems like food babe is being “preachy”. From the comments apparently others do too. However, it is simple psychology: the things that bother us the most are the things we don’t like about ourselves… or can’t deal with inside ourselves. Obviously, most of us KNOW we are eating bad. We just can’t or won’t deal with the thought we need to change. And… we get defensive and shoot the messenger.

    We have to figure out a way to face our bad food choices … whether those choices are/were knowingly or unknowingly.

    Companies will always give what the consumer asks for. If we all came together and asked for only non-gmo organic foods… I guarantee the stores would give it to us. We are the people who keep them in business.

    However, because people can’t stand to face reality … they continue to “ask for” chemical laden, processed foods with every dollar they spend at places that serve them.

    Thank you Food Babe for facing the thing so many of us are too afraid to face. It’s not about living in fear about everything we eat. It’s about FACING our fears, and moving past them by making the choices we KNOW we should be making.

    We need more food babes out there. We need more people to care. We need more people willing to face the parts of themselves they couldn’t face before. I hope more Americans will take charge of their food choices…other countries already have.

    Keep the articles coming. Sources would be great, but just keep writing and researching. It is making a difference.

  36. Is Roo-BAw-Dayosayd-Ah (additional synthetic sweeteners) in Starbucks ReFresheres safe for daily consumption? I like the Berry Hibiscus with real Blackberries but had concern on the artifical ingredients. I pay premium for the product and I want the best my money.


    A brewed cup of coffee most likely isn’t full of bad pesticides because of the extensive washing, roasting, and fermentation the bean goes through before it even hits the shelf. Read the article above.
    It’s an article that debunks the coffee pesticide issue in regards to the drinker’s health. However, I still see it as a hazardous risk to the coffee growers and environments they are grown in- no doubt there. Here’s a quote from it:

    “Coffee is not eaten raw like lettuce or apples. The bean is the seed of a fruit. The flesh of this fruit is discarded. Along the way the seed is soaked, fermented, and subject to a thorough drying process. Later it is roasted at temperatures exceeding 400°F, and finally broken apart and soaked in near boiling water. This savage history concludes when we consume only the water in which the previously soaked, fermented, dried, roasted, and infused seed was immersed. Given this history of relentless attrition, it hardly seems possible that much if any of the small amounts of pesticide/fungicide residue permitted by law in green coffee ever make it into the cup.

  38. I believe the majority of folks are smart enough to know when something isn’t particularly healthy for them. All the reasons you listed put aside, we shouldn’t be consuming treats everyday. The biggest culprit at Starbucks is that people will buy those treats once, even twice a day. The ingredients won’t kill them……the frequency of eating them might, eventually.

    I think they’re pretty nice to let you park yourself there, free hot water and all, without asking anything in return from you. ; except maybe a nice little mention in an article you’ve written…………

  39. Did you consider that the hot water given to you for your organic tea is fluoridated? That defeats the purpose. Just an FYI- it really sucks :/

  40. Thanks, Food Babe!! Wow, that is scary stuff and I’m a huge fan of the green tea frappuccino, now since working to be all organic I am having to weed out and change some things! Have to order some organic green tea matcha powder and make my own now!

  41. Here’s the problem with most of your premise: a) you’re preaching to the choir here. People eating “real foods” aren’t going to corporate establishments driven by profit to get their food. Mass produced product is made from non organic ingredients?!! Really?!! Thanks for the heads up. b) many of Starbucks coffees aren’t “certified organic” because it comes at the cost of the farmer yielding quite a bit of crops over a lengthy period of time. Perhaps you don’t understand that you’re not just generalizing a corporation in this context but actual coffee farmers who have much more respect for the art of growing great coffee than you and your google searches can comprehend. How many coffee farms have you been to? I’ve been to one. Not certified organic, by the way, and while I can’t speak to their seeds I can speak to their lack of pesticides. While I make no argument for food, I do find myself in need of opposing your blanket coffee pesticide attack without any sort of qualification other than the non certified organic stamp. Also search C.A.F.E. practices and enlighten yourself. All of this info can be found from talking to a knucklehead in a black apron making $9 an hour. Have at it.

  42. “It is interesting that Green Coffee Extract was not actually in the drink like they advertise. It is included in the refresher products they sell packaged in the store, but not in the version baristas make behind the counter. Is this their way of tricking us into buying a cheaper derivative of Green Coffee – just the flavor and not the extract?”

    No, it is the fruit which are soaked in green coffee extract. That is why Starbucks cannot sell the drink when they are out of the fruit.

  43. “Let’s get real here, they do not actually serve organic coffee at most Starbucks locations, which means (like all brands of conventional coffee) it’s been sprayed with pesticides.”

    Apparently you are unaware that organic and pesticide-free are not synonymous. And don’t think organic pesticides are any safer for you, especially when they have to spray more of it to get the same effects as synthetic pesticides or GMO’s.

  44. Thanks so much for your research! I wanted to add something to your list of Starbucks ingrediets, and to see if anyone else has heard this…I work at a health food store. Today we had a Starbucks employee come in. She was asking what the “natural flavors” in a brand of Stevia consists of. She was asking because she said that someone came in to Starbucks and asked what the “natural flavor” in their raspberry syrup consisted of. They looked up the ingredients, and there was a scientic name that nobody had heard of. They looked up the scientific name, and it was beaver anus. I was of course, appalled. I have not been able to confirm this yet (just got home from work). The customer who claimed this information said that we’d be able to look on the Starbuck’s website and it’s clearly listed on the ingredients. I did not find this when I went to the website. I’m interested to see if anyone else has heard this or can confirm?

  45. It’s really hard because places that see “not too bad” have a lot of bad stuff. I’m thinking Chipotle and Starbucks. I have given up on ALL restaurants, fast food, etc. I’m beating a chronic condition so it’s a little different for me but I’m eating only food I know and see. Do I have to resort to grocery store organic parsley… yes… but it is organic parsley not that much junk in it.

    1. Jason, if you have a kitchen counter near a window you can grow a nice pot of parsley yourself. If you’re starting with seeds it TAKES A LONG TIME to germinate, so I usually start with a six-pack of young plants from a nursery or garden shop. Make sure there’s a hole in the bottom of the pot and water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch. Snip off what you need and enjoy your totally organic parsley. (Lots of other crops can also be grown at home, inside and out.)

    1. Some coffees are certified organic. If one has it ground in store, it is no longer organic because the grinder is used for non-organic coffees as well. They are transparent about this.

  46. A note about the refreshers. You stated, “It is interesting that Green Coffee Extract was not actually in the drink like they advertise. It is included in the refresher products they sell packaged in the store, but not in the version baristas make behind the counter. Is this their way of tricking us into buying a cheaper derivative of Green Coffee – just the flavor and not the extract?” I drink the refreshers fairly often, and trust me, they do have caffeine. I asked and was told that the actual limes and berries are saturated with the green coffee extract, which is why they cannot sell the drink if they sell out of the fruit. Not sure why you make a big deal out of the two favors using the same base. That is the case for the majority of their drinks, hence the syrups. The dried fruit is where the flavor and caffeine are contained.

    While it is certainly beneficial to seek foods that are high in quality and free of chemical additives, we must realize that we will never escape ingesting toxins, as they are ever present in every aspect of our environment – air, water, soil, soaps, lotions, cosmetics, fabrics, etc. Unless you find a corner of the planet that has never been inhabited by man and contains no natural environmental toxins, your body will have to contend with toxins. Just strive to eat whole, fresh foods whenever possible, minimize processed foods, drink purified water, get adequate sleep, and exercise. The stress of worrying about every little chemical in our foods is likely to cause more harm than many of the concerns you raise. I am all for raising awareness about those things that effect our health. Let’s just keep it balanced.

  47. I’d love, or maybe not, to hear your thoughts on Caribou Coffee. Very enlightening. Thank you!

  48. This is a silly article. All this talk about pesticides is complete and utter nonsense. Every product is certified safe before use. 96% of all fruits and vegetables that are sprayed, have no chemical residue left on them, and the rest has under 1%(which has been tested and is 100% safe). Before you criticize the system that was built to protect you, get your facts straight. Also, organic DOES NOT mean there are no chemicals…it just means they sprayed organic chemicals, which are the same products, except harvested from nature. Many chemicals are certified organic– and you thought you were so high and mighty!

    As for your argument that these products are causing unhealthiness, well you are an idiot to think that. Any product in moderation is fine for you, and it is the persons fault for being unhealthy. As occasional Starbucks drink with these “toxins” will not harm you. Americans are so fat because they want more, more, more, then they blame it on little things that don’t matter. Exercise and eat things in moderation and you will be great.

    As for the refreshers, you never mentioned how it does have lime flavor. I am not paying for a mint and cucumber drink, I am paying for a lime drink, and I really don’t care if it has small amounts of natural flavors.

    I will continue to enjoy my Starbucks, along with healthy foods and exercise, while all of you sit around on your lazy butts and get fat and blame it on something that is nothing.

  49. In the article you come across as cheap when you flaunt going to starbucks and not buying anything, just weaseling their wifi.

    As a previous commenter noted: You should be using a ceramic cup!! Imagine how much plastic and paper is used there everyday, starbucks can’t be bothered to recycle unless consumers push them to it.

  50. so whats good enough to drink? at starbucks or drink??i love frappuccino it keeps me awake, but is there a better selection they offer?

  51. Isn’t it time to stop giving Starbuck’s your money? They put small coffee houses out of business and feed you toxic food. Why not go to your local small coffeehouse instead?

  52. Have you thought about sending this to Starbucks? Like taking this entire article and emailing it to them to see what their response is?? Now thats an idea. If allow you did that – you’d create a stir I bet. Especially on their Facebook page. Food for thought

  53. i’ll echo and confirm what others have posted about the BOH mocha sauce not containing high fructose corn syrup. the mocha sauce sold on does. here is a link to confirm,default,pd.html?start=4&cgid=syrups-and-sauces

    something you might want to add, or further research, are the refreshers. not the tetra juice packs, but the fruit that is included. dehydrated blackberries and lime wheels, but they are a product from venezuela, taiwan and china.

  54. Without going into the bad and the ugly (after having learned from friends and family who worked for sbux corporate and gave me the inside scoop…) a relatively clean option at Sbux is the vivanno: organic juice (used to be odwalla or naked brand, now it’s an in-house mixture I think), low fat milk, a whole banana and ice plus a scoop of whey protein. For my kid, I just hold the protein powder. They have strawberry/banana, orange/mango and chocolate banana. Much better than jamba juice and definitely better than the refresher (gross) and frappacinos (nothing natural in that thing as far as I can tell…)

    As for the “outrage” over Sbux being unhealthy, let’s be clear, they are in business to make money. Overall. I think they are pretty responsive to customer input compared to their competition (dunkin’ donuts anyone?). They market test cleaner, healthier baked goods all the time and gee, guess what, they don’t do well in store. People just don’t want them or they don’t want to pay the prices they’d have to charge (but have no problem with a $4 frappacino and a $3.00, 500 calorie pumpkin scone…LOL). They just acquired evolution juices and food bars (based in LA) and opened one outside Seattle. It’s doing pretty well–who knew kale salad and fresh juices to order would be such a hit?!

  55. What fool ever thought Starbucks was healthy? Very little when you eat or drink out is natural or healthy. But then breathing in most larger cities is bad for you as well…. Not sure I understand the point of this article. I think Starbucks is fine in moderation just like many other things. Your body is an amazing complex machine that does a great job taking care of itself if you do not abuse it to much.

    1. Thank you! That is exactly what I was thinking!! Are people really going there and buying baked goods and pastries, sugar filled coffees and whatever else they like and thinking that it is natural and healthy?? I’m not a regular Starbucks customer but last I knew they weren’t touting the health benefits of consuming their products. I totally agree that anytime you eat or drink out you have no idea what you are actually consuming. Apparently there are people out there who don’t know this.

    2. We all say things are okay in moderation. Here is what I can tell you as someone who worked for Starbucks for 2 years. There is no such thing as moderation. We would see the same people at the same time every single day. Not once a week or even two times a month; every single day. It’s part of their culture. They train the baristas to learn your name and get to know you. It’s all about getting you to feel welcome so you come back and spend more money. Starbucks wants to be a part of your daily routine.

      So do people think it is good for them to eat that pastry? No, but they DO think they are doing right by themselves by ordering the Reduced Fat Cin Swirl cake over another pastry.

  56. Excellent article. I don’t eat very many processed foods, but I do enjoy the occasional iced coffee from Starbucks. I had no idea they used so many bad ingredients, and I’m usually great about checking that type of thing.

  57. Darn it…I wrote an entire response and it didn’t send, so now I’m starting again.

    First of all, kudos for taking the giant green monster to task about their nutritional content and value. Second, I am offering my insight as someone who has worked in specialty coffee for over a decade and so my opinions are that of someone with extensive experience, albeit in a more specialty market than Starbucks:

    Organic and Fairtrade: These are buzz words in coffee and while they do mean that the crop was produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, it does NOT mean that the end product was any better in terms of quality and it ABSOLUTELY does not mean that the farmer is benefiting from the premium the consumer pays for the coffee. In fact, a lot of farmers are too poor to pay for the fees associated with having their coffee certified as organic, or the five years MINIMUM it takes for a farm to become organically certified. What farmer in a developing nation can afford to NOT have a crop for five years?

    If consumers truly want to have an impact on the quality of life of the people producing these products, they would support independent coffee houses who follow a direct trade model of coffee sourcing. That means that small coffee companies create and maintain relationships with the farmers directly, buying their crop, and paying a premium for it without having a middle man in the supply chain. Again, buying organic only means that you’re buying a product that was produced without chemicals, but it doesn’t mean that the other myriad amount of items in the supply chain weren’t compromised (fair wages to farmers, fair prices at market, the mass amounts of fuel used to get the product to the US, etc.).

    Decaf: It is true that Starbucks used to use the Swiss Water Method for their decaffeination of coffee and for economic reasons primary moved back to using the methylene chloride and ethyl acetate method, but while it IS a chemical method, it’s a naturally occurring chemical in fruit, so unless you cut out most of your fruit intake, this chemical is entering your body in some fashion. That said, it’s still pretty gross that the same chemical used in dry cleaning is also used to decaffeinate your coffee.

    Pesticides: No scientific study has been accepted in the industry that pesticides used in the production of coffee ever end up in the finished cup. There are a a variety of reasons for that, but the two primary reasons are: When roasting coffee, the temps are in excess of 400 degree F and 85-100% of the pesticides are ‘cooked’ off at that point. Second, when grinding and brewing coffee, as the water that is 202 degrees F or more passes over the grinds, the residual amount of pesticides are left behind as part of the ground coffee solid remains and not passed through to the finished cup. Again, just because pesticides are used in the production of green coffee cherries does not mean that pesticides penetrate the cherry and into the bean and then are able to stay present in the bean throughout the roasting process and then the brewing process. I challenge anyone to present an article that has supporting documentation to prove otherwise.

    On a final more personal note, while it’s certainly your right to patronize Starbucks and get a cup of free hot water, as someone who advocates better ways to source food, shouldn’t you be using a reusable cup and NOT contributing cups to a landfill every time you visit that store? Or, if you don’t have a cup, ask for a ceramic MUG of hot water so that you may enjoy your tea, or self-brought oatmeal.

    1. I think it’s just really cheap to go for their free internet when you aren’t paying for anything they sell there!

    2. Food Babe-I can’t believe after my original posting from more than 7 months ago, you don’t have any follow up comments, or retorts to my points about organic/fairtrade, decaf, and pesticides.

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