A Starbucks seethe... Which bit of avoiding cross-contamination do they not understand?

I had the misfortune to travel the length of the country by coach this week and, although well stocked with GF basics for my journey, I really fancied a treat with my coffee during a stop in Birmingham.

Starbucks had cakes labelled as gluten free but presented on a display adjacent to and touching wheat products. I asked the staff why and they apologised saying there is normally a one inch high divider and they don't know why it isn't there today. (Funny that, they said the same on my outbound journey too.)

So what about the crumbs dropped off the shelf above and visible on the "GF" cake?

"Er... Sorry, I'll mention it to the manager. Would you like a slice?" (!!!!!)

And how do they serve it? Yep you got it, the same tongs they use for all the pastries. "We used to have separate ones but for some reason we don't any more. I could use the vegetarian tongs." Yes 'cause that would really make a difference wouldn't it.


10 Replies

  • I also mentioned the cross contamination issue to Starbucks. I was told they always offer a fresh wrapped item straight from the fridge to anyone who says they are Gluten intolerant. Their GF products are meant to also be suitable for non GF people and therefore anyone can eat them. They say the signs are just there to advertise the fact that they are GF NOT that they are in the display cabinet because they can't control the cross contamination for the very reasons you point out. So next time ask for a fresh wrapped one which the staff are always happy to fetch. x

  • I have always had a good experience at Starbucks with cake being brought out from the fridge wrapped and the assistant without prompting advising what precautions had been taken to ensure no cross contamination had occurred.

  • That's good. I suppose like most retail things it's down to the quality of local training and who you get on the day.

  • I head for a Starbucks when travelling as I've always been offered a wrapped cake or sandwich from the fridge and the staff appear to understand the cross contamination issues. My other half prefers Costa but their choice is very limited despite giving feedback to their website.

  • I actually wrote to their Head Office telling them that an over sweet Brownie was pretty poor and driving customers to their competition. The response was so lackadaisical and uninterested I wish Id never bothered. Basically their attitude was, go somewhere else which Im happy to do and I hope the 1 in 100 or so other GF people also avoid them as it will serve them right!!

  • Dartmoor the only way to make a difference is to complain. Contact Starbucks on twitter & via email. APs is right we normally always demand a wrapped one from the back. Also bear in mind that Leon sell Honeybuns cakes (they are not labelled as that though) and ask for a wrapped one by them. Plus Costa Coffee also now does a wrapped GF brownie. We loathe brownies and anything sickly sweet. But some people love them.

  • Thanks both for your replies, yes I did have one from the boxed stock but I had to ask, which suggests to me that their staff awareness training is somewhat deficient. I have complained as well.

    I don't think it's good enough that we can ask specially. Imagine if I was with a group and a friend asked for and got me a slice from the display, as a surprise treat without asking me. They would have asked for gluten free cake and believed they had got GF. Although I make people generally aware when I'm eating out with them, I don't want to ram it down people's throats and I don't expect them to spot and worry about things like this.

    The bottom line is, when asking a retailer for GF food that is what should be supplied.

  • Hi,

    I use Starbucks regularly and always have the sealed/wrapped cakes. It's never been an issue to ask the staff to take one out of the fridge for me - they offered the first time I mentioned the need for one that was strictly gluten-free.

    However I always use the same Starbucks and I guess they have Since got more used to this request!

    The chocolate brownie is gluten-free. The hazelnut and chocolate loaf is both gluten and dairy free (but not soya). My local also does gluten-free sandwiches. Unfortunately for me these are neither vegetarian or dairy free. Oh well... at least they're trying!

  • complain to the food standards agency and trading standards. I wonder if they would take the same approach to peanuts - or cyankali ...

  • Hello, my mum has also written to starbucks to complain about this problem. Obviously their lack of proper training is making what they are doing a bit pointless. But the more we complain about this, the more they will understand how much it will benefit both us and them.

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