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Drink Starbucks? Wake Up And Smell The Chemicals!

Last week, I posted a new investigation into the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte and exposed how Starbucks makes it difficult for its customers to know what they are drinking. This is because:

  • Starbucks doesn’t publish the ingredients online.
  • Starbucks doesn’t publish the allergen information online.
  • Starbucks is inconsistent. We were given slightly different ingredients depending on who we spoke to at Starbucks.

I also broke down the complete list of ingredients in this popular latte, including caramel coloring that contains the chemical 4-Mel, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and National Toxicity Program. A 2-year government funded feeding study found that 4-Mel caused lung cancer in mice. The Center of Science in Public Interest and the Consumers Union (the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports) recently petitioned the FDA to take action to limit caramel coloring in soft drinks.  


This post quickly went viral, with over 3 million views on and 10 million views on Facebook in just a few days. I was incredibly impressed with your activism and how you fearlessly shared this post with your friends and family. You truly got the word out within minutes, and people were listening. This news spread quickly and major news outlets began reporting our story.

This morning I had the amazing opportunity to be on a very popular national TV morning show, Fox & Friends, which gave us a huge platform to continue spreading the word. In case you missed it, the video clip is right here below: (Can you guess my favorite part?) 


 Here’s some more national coverage that we received:

  • Entrepreneur, “Can a Food Blogger Force Starbucks to Change Its Pumpkin Spice Latte?”
  • USA Today, “One thing NOT in Starbucks’ pumpkin latte: pumpkin”
  • Chicago Sun Times, Food Babe takes on Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Jezebel, Not Even Starbucks Knows What’s In Your Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • WGN Radio, Food Babe: Starbucks needs to offer organic milk
  • Business Insider, “Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte Doesn’t Contain Real Pumpkin, And People Are Freaking Out”
  •, “There’s no pumpkin in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte”
  • Medical Daily, “Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Uses Carcinogens In Its Caramel And GMO-Laden Cow Milk”

While all of this coverage was nothing short of amazing, much of it centered on how this drink doesn’t contain any pumpkin. 

The fact that it doesn’t contain pumpkin is the least of my worries.  

I have been investigating Starbucks for a while and wrote my first blog post about them over two years ago (in 2012): “Top 5 Ways To Get Sabotaged at Starbucks“, in which I revealed the not so “real” ingredients in some of their food and drinks, including: 

  • Caramel Coloring (Class IV)
  • Pesticides
  • Carrageenan
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Refined Flours
  • Chemically Derived Sugars
  • Preservatives 
  • Growth Hormone (in food products)
  • Azodicarbonamide
  • Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs)
  • Inflammatory Oils

At the time, obtaining this information was a daunting task. It took several emails and repeated visits to Starbucks locations to finally nail down the complete list of ingredients in their flavored coffee, espresso drinks and frappuccinos. To this day, Starbucks still does not publish their drink ingredients online or in their stores.  

One of my main concerns from the very beginning was their use of class IV caramel coloring.

Following all of the attention that my 2012 investigation received and after a national TV appearance discussing their ingredients, the Starbucks PR team reached out to me and invited me to their corporate offices in Seattle to discuss my concerns. I was pleased about this opportunity to begin an open dialogue with them that could lead to improving the quality of their products.  

During the next few months, I was carefully preparing for this meeting and outlining what Starbucks needed to do to improve their offerings to make the biggest impact. That was until I was blindsided in May of this year, when they suddenly retracted the invite because they thought the meeting wouldn’t be “productive”:

“I want to follow-up on your request to visit our Seattle office. After much consideration, my team and I have decided that a visit probably won’t be productive for either of us at this time. We’ve made tremendous strides in our food and beverage journey to ensure transparency and quality is at the forefront in everything we do. We are passionate and thoughtful about each product we offer to our customers, made with care each time. We’re not perfect, but we stand by our products and ingredients, believe in our brand and continue to make improvements along the way. I’d still like to be your point of contact for fact checking and any questions you might have – keeping a dialogue is still important and I hope you feel the same”.

I was floored that they would not agree to an open face-to-face meeting, and I asked if a phone conversation would be possible instead. I let her know I was extremely disappointed and that they haven’t answered many of our questions regarding their use of caramel coloring. I made it clear that my only goal is to create a better food system for all. Yet, they again refused to meet with me:

…we’re not feeling confident a visit to our offices or phone call will solve your interests.

And – she made a claim regarding their “safe” use of caramel coloring:

Regarding caramel coloring, we appreciate your feedback and want to assure you that in all instances where the color is used in our beverages, the level is well below the No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) allowed by California’s Prop 65, regarded as a conservative evaluation system, and safe to consume.

At no time during our email exchanges did they indicate they were interested in taking caramel coloring out of their products and simply defended its use as “safe”. 

All this changed last week after the Food Babe Army spoke up. 

I was surprised, but obviously thrilled, when a USA Today reporter quoted Starbucks’ spokeswoman Lisa Passe last week saying they are “actively looking at phasing out caramel coloring“. Also – PIX11 News in New York reported that Starbucks has a “team in place” working on getting caramel coloring out of their drinks. Starbucks changed their position towards using this coloring in their products because of you and this is awesome news!  They also indicated that they’re working on listing core drink ingredients on their website. I reached out to Starbucks to confirm this information and asked them several questions:  

  • What’s your timeline for removing caramel color?
  • When do you plan to inform your customers of this change?
  • Do you plan on offering organic milk in your stores?
  • Would you remove carrageenan from your soy milk offering too?

They declined to provide any answers:

“We actually don’t have anything else to share at this time, but thanks for checking!”


Spill The Beans, Starbucks! What’s Your Timeline?  

  1. If your friends or family members are drinking Starbucks, please inform them of the truth. Take the picture above dissecting the ingredients and post it on your social media pages and keep sharing!
  2. Keep the pressure on Starbucks to announce a timeline and commit to taking caramel coloring out of all of their products. It’s unnecessarily used for cosmetic reasons and removing it should be a fairly easy change to implement. I can’t think of a logical reason (other than raising profits for Starbucks) on why you need to color coffee more brown in an opaque white cup!
  3. Removing caramel coloring will be HUGE, but Starbucks should step up to the plate and come clean on their ingredients. There’s nothing prohibiting them from listing core ingredient lists on their website immediately. Dunkin’ Donuts does it, so why can’t Starbucks?
  4. Ask Starbucks to set the bar and serve organic milk in all locations. This is a big priority, and they haven’t provided a statement or reasoning behind why they can’t add organic milk to their drink options. 

Contact Starbucks & Ask For A Timeline:

  1. Call Starbucks Customer Service: 1-800-782-7282. 
  2. Email Starbucks directly through their website here.
  3. Continue contacting Starbucks via their Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Also, if you saw the bogus Snopes article that came out last week trying to discredit this Starbucks investigation, check out my response to that here. The truth always prevails!

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a Starbucks and order a drink without potential cancer-causing additives and to know exactly what you are drinking? None of these changes could become a reality without you and your unwavering determination to improve the quality and safety of our food. I hope that you all are as proud of yourselves as I am in you. Together, we can do this!

Sending you much love and respect,


P.S. If you are a new reader to, please sign up for my email updates, you’ll be the first to know about any future breaking investigations. 




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187 responses to “Drink Starbucks? Wake Up And Smell The Chemicals!

  1. Just sent a message to Starbucks. Thanks for the link. Hopefully the F.B Army will crash their Customer Service site and they will get the point. Power to the (healthy) people!

    1. Since I read your article about Starbucks, I quit going there. I didn’t go while at home but I travel a lot and would go there to get my coffee fix. Now, I either take organic instant coffee with me or buy it at a Whole Foods in the city I am visiting. I don’t understand why they don’t even OFFER an organic coffee option. I’d pay more for it!! Thank you Food Babe! Keep up the great work!

  2. Bravo, Vani! I applaud your dedication, energy and intelligence in helping these companies become accountable for what they’re serving their customers! Probably if you followed the chain of command high enough in who owns these major companies, you’d find they have connections with Big Pharma, who PROFIT from all their customers’ health problems…just saying, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least! Keep standing strong, we’re all behind you!

  3. What I hope this movement does is reach people who don’t eat/drink particularly healthy and things like this move them to a healthier whole foods diet; and educates them about processed foods and their harmful effects. Would be thrilled if more companies chose not to use harmful chemicalS and put health and transparency first. I used to drink exactly one pumpkin spiced latte a year at Starbucks

    1. Continued…. As it was festive and brought in the Fall season so sweetly. I knew it was processed and junkie but as 90% whole foods-nutrient dense eater, I didn’t sweat it. It is enlightening to learn exactly what is in it and it’s disheartening to learn how difficult it was to get the deets! I like Starbucks for several good reasons and hope they realize their enormous potential here to make things transparent and much healthier. Thanks Food Babe and everyone!

  4. I had a feeling that the recipe changed from the original syrup that had been offered a few years back. I couldn’t understand why the flavor was so off and the syrup was so sweet. I had been lowering the amount they put into the cup but now I will just not get it period. I usual just get coffee the Blonde roast as the darker roast is too much and I really don’t put anything in the coffee to sweeten it. I will definitely contact the company via the link you supplied and vent my dislike of the additions.etc

  5. I just left a message informing Starbucks that my family and I would discontinue our patronage until they provide a timeline for removing caramel color. Can’t wait to hear from them!
    Thank you Vani for your efforts! I, for one, appreciate all that you do to ensure that our food is safe. And for informing us if food is not safe for consumption! Watch out corrupt food industry, the FOODBABE army is here and we are NOT stopping until you clean up!
    Certified Organic is the only way to safely consume food.

  6. I have also left (pretty much an ultimatum) a comment on Starbucks email addy!! I am proud to be a part of your army!!! Keep up the great work and I’ll work harder at being a better soldier!!!!

  7. Way to go Food Babe!! Keep making these CORRUPT companies ACCOUNTABLE for the TOXIC FILTH that they are putting into our food!!! WE (Food Babe Army) are behind you all of the way and it really seems like these stupid corporations are starting to FEEL that maybe THE PEOPLE are serious!!! lol
    They don’t seem to be as OBNOXIOUS as usual…….maybe they are starting to FEEL it in their bottom line!!
    Whenever you have a Company that DOES NOT list it’s ingredients, that is a sure fire RED FLAG to us all that they are putting TOXIC INGREDIENTS in whatever it is and feeding it to us, because after all, we are too ignorant to understand the science and exactly just how good it is for us!! I think AMERICA is WAKING UP, thanks to you and the many others that WILL NOT GIVE UP and who continue to fight this battle for us all!!!
    May God be with you and continue to bless you and your family!!! 🙂

  8. Great Work Vani, it is terrible to find out thru you about the poisoned food reality and not from organizations responsible to the nations health using our tax money and provide: what?.
    You are one of my favor sites, keep pushing this criminals you have my support .

  9. I think your goal to spread this awareness and remove all the decades of wrongdoing the food industry has been hiding from us is incredible. I thought “trying” to eat healthy, aware (that’s an important part), and smart is probably the most important thing one could possibly do for themselves. No one has better interest for you then your own rational mind. And to think, there are others out there with that same desire…I wish I could know what’s it’s like to eat clean for 1 month straight! lol. I will eventually..

  10. Hi Food Babe! I am a newcomer to eating and drinking clean and healthy. A few months ago, the thought of figuring out all of the information about what to eat, what was healthy (and what wasn’t) was too much of a daunting task to even consider. It was so overwhelming that I almost gave up before I started, until I finally asked a friend of mine WHERE to begin. Guess what she told me… Food Babe! She told me you would get me headed in the right direction and give me ideas for things to eliminate and change to set me on my way. So, that’s what I did. Since then, I have switched over many of my beauty products, as well as making the choice to visit a holistic doctor to help me cleanse my body of toxins. I now eat only organic foods, no red meat, no gluten, no sugar (except from fruit), no dairy, and no wheat. I feel like a different person. My hormone levels are regulating themselves, and with the help of a detox supplements, I am still in the process of continuing to eliminate years of waste contaminating my cells. And I just want you to know that it all started with the inspiration I found on your FB page. Without your efforts and willingness to share your knowledge, I probably would have given up before I even got started. So thank you! You ARE making a difference. 🙂 And btw, I wrote to Starbucks. 🙂

  11. It’s pretty sad when they artificially color coffee brown…it’s coffee…it’s already brown! I’m sick of all these “artificial” ingredients in our food. I want real food in our food!

  12. There is hope… I mean, I’m surprised they are allowing Vani to come on national TV and discuss this stuff.

    I can only think of one reason, because she’s hot and female. Don’t take this the wrong way, but the fact is, there have been at least 3 – 4 popular men online that have been talking about this stuff for years but they are considered “kooks.”

    Anyway, for me personally, it’s much nicer to get my information from Vani–call me a pig, but beautiful women make even the scarest news seem hopeful.

    1. Ha! Honesty in it’s finest. She happens to have a really good army which helps her get heads to turn even more! You are right that others, like Mercola have not been given the platform in the same way, and seen as a threatening and/or not taken seriously. Times are changing…and that’s a great thing. I guess Fox News must not be getting advertising dollars from Starbucks or those other food companies/products shown. I imagine NBC and cBS would be in a different boat and wouldn’t put her on their show.

  13. Way to go!!! Great news! I’m still going to quit going to Starbucks for a while, there are still many other scary ingredients in their beverages… Thanks for shedding light on this!!

  14. Just got an auto note from SBUX that due to the high volume of comments, they will get back to me on mine. Sounds like they are inundated with this !

  15. Dear Foodbabe, thank You so much for investigations and that about Starbucks, a few month ago a new Stars opened about 1 mile ago from my house and I haven’t been there because I think their to expensive anyways but I thought about trying it, even so I had a feeling something was wrong, now I know that I will never go there and even spend a dime in that store.

  16. Thank you Dear Food Baby, for open my eyes and my family’s to know all that chemicals we consume daily.
    There’s a hope for the future of our Kid let’s keep the fight for them….

  17. Great Job Vani…and to ALL the Food Babe Army!
    We did it…still more work to do though!
    Called Starbucks again today…they are experiencing a
    high volume of calls today!!
    Woo HOO!!…that would be “US”…the Food Babe Army!! 😀

  18. Thank Goodness for you and all that you do! I feel like I can’t shop anywhere anymore due to all the carcinogens and hormones and things in all the food everywhere. I don’t even shop in regular grocery stores anymore because all their chicken has hormones and have been abused, and they have battery eggs….its insane what people buy nowadays. I hope that your next mission is to address the chicken industry and the egg industry. When we eat chickens who have been penned and abused their cortisol levels are sky high and we eat that! And the fear energy from them is detrimental to our health as well. Keep on going Food Babe…..we appreciate you!

  19. Great Job with Starbucks!
    I know you will follow up to make sure that they truly do live up to their commitment per your meeting with them.
    Keep On Keeping On!

  20. Thank you for all you do for the goodness of food quality.. You are an adamant food advocate and lobby for change. Kudos..
    I wanted to tell you .I have stop going to Starbucks, and my Cholesterol has come down to healthier levels. I overall feel better being away from poisoning me and others unknowingly.
    My hubby makes a better cup of coffee at home way better than Starbucks.
    I can make my own café Mocha at home its not rocket science to make and get no GMO’s & other chemical junk and know its pure..
    I wonder now how healthy is Mc Donald’s café coffee ? Can you please consider that one as your next quest on health.
    Thank you and I love your site. Read all your newsletters.
    I still will not go to Subway don’t trust them…
    Warmest Regards,

  21. Girl you are the best!!! Way to knock it out of the park. I have grown sick and tired of being sick and tired. Thank you. God love you.

  22. Not sure how/why this is surprising to anyone. Besides the chemicals, the sheer amount of sugar in this beverage is worth staying away from.

  23. Watching the video Fox & friends is disturbing!!
    Both of them poke jokes at the poison VANI is pointing out..
    And as always doesn’t let anyone finish anything important, like the products on the table.. {OUT OF TIME}
    And then brings up KFC, the poison our family’s eat

    I have a hard time with people selling the human race out for a pay check!!!

  24. It’s pumpkin spice latte, not a pumpkin latte, so I wouldn’t expect pumpkin to be in it. That being said, Yuck!

  25. I am a starbuck lover, but I really need to beware of it, Any of you who know anything are NOT GMO, or anything like pumpkin latte has chemical in it? which ones are organic?

  26. This is off topic….but I notice a lot of blogs have a popup within 2 seconds of landing on the blog page asking if I like what I see? Then to put in my email.

    Well, how do I know if I like what I see, if I have only been there for 1 second and now I am looking at a popup and I can’t even see what I am supposed to decide if I like?

    All blogs have this now. Which is silly.

    Just sayin’

    Thanks for listening to me vent because I WOULD actually like to subscribe IF I DO like what I see and many times I do, but NEVER through that popup.

  27. Oops their running out of time… Finding out what poisons are in our foods aren’t as important as the color “blue” making a come back. News reporters are so fake and phony! What you are “trying” to tell us is important. Make your own videos Food Babe. We’ll watch them and share to all of those that want to be informed.
    Thank you for what you do!

  28. Hi Vani,
    Thanks for your vigilance, I just posted the question to Starbucks on Facebook.

    Here’s a little “food-for-thought” – the chemical weapons industry got started shortly before WWI by industrial chemists working in the dye industry. They discovered the extremely toxic nature of some of the compounds on the human central nervous system. The result was the manufacture of some of the most toxic chemicals known civilization, such as VX and Sarin.
    industrial food dyes are one of my biggest pet-peaves and are liberally used in many products from vitamin pills to hot sauce – and used solely for appearance.
    Vote with your wallet -read the label – if it has dye, don’t buy!

  29. I also contacted Starbucks about the use of syrups and received an email stating that the syrups sold on their website are the same ones they use in their stores. This is confirms what I see in the stores – the same syrup containers. At the time I complained of HFCS as the 1st or 2nd ingredient listed! I only order the plain cappuccino or mocha at Starbucks because I do not put HFCS in my temple! I am now ready to bring an unopened cart of organic milk & ask them to use it when making my mocha. Wonder what will happen?

  30. I have just returned from the UK, while there I noticed that in many small towns I visited – the beautiful, character-filled coffee shops – with amazing coffee 🙂 ( and there are many) carry a sign on window or door with the word Starbucks – and a Red Cross through the word – Starbucks is the death knell for small individually owned coffee shops, and the idea is to keep them out of these towns – brilliant!

    But returning to the US and the caramel debacle – my favorite Autumn drink served by Starbucks is (has) been caramel apple spice – I imagine this has the same crap as the pumpkin spice latte – anyone help me on this please?

    1. Helen,
      Knowing Starbucks, if one of their “Autumn” drinks has crap in it, they ALL do. They have their own little lab of go-to chemicals. All you have to do is specifiy which toxin you’d like and in what size…and give them your name of course. **shudder**

      No more of this place for me, thank you very much.

  31. Thanks again Food Babe for letting us know what’s in the products we eat and drink.
    I was so surprised to hear about all the nasty things Star Bucks puts in their coffee.
    I don’t go there often but now I might not go ever again.
    Thank you,
    Ms. Patricia Cherry

  32. I just read your post about your eczema issues in the past and how your pcp did not offer any alternatives except medications. I am curious if you have opted to go see a DO instead of an MD. You may find a more fitting relationship with a DO who will likely seek out other options before using meds to make things better.

  33. Loved your story. Mine is similar.. Keep up the GREAT work .
    We love you for impacting the world to make it a healthier place!
    M y body thanks you as well.. Between my other mentors and your advice.. I ROCK!!!!!
    A very young 63 year old Mari

  34. I emailed Starbucks to ask them when the plan on taking the toxic chemicals out of their drinks. I don’t know what I was expecting but I was at least slightly hopeful it wasn’t pacifying fluff like the following I got in return. Lip service at it’s finest:

    Hello Tracy,

    I just finished reading your email and appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns with us.

    I want you to know how important this is to us. As a company, we take pride in providing full ingredient transparency to our customers so they can make whatever choice is right for them on their beverage selection. The high level of personalization of Starbucks beverages available allows customers to enjoy a unique Starbucks Experience and tailor their drink to match their own personal taste preferences – including the selection from a variety of fresh dairy selections and soy milk, a combination of syrups, and coffee/espresso options and toppings. If customers have questions about any of the items offered in our stores, they can ask their barista for a list of ingredients. We’re also working on listing core beverage recipes online via and hope to have an update in the near future.

    Again, we really appreciate your feedback and please let us know if we can answer any questions.

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


    Adam H.
    customer service

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