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Top 5 Ways To Get Sabotaged at Starbucks

Trying to navigate 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 from the vegan community and eliminated that beetle juice (which is linked to allergies). 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…

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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 and even state on their website their bakery products are made with “high quality, simple ingredients. 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 or free of GMOs.  For example, the Reduced Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake and Iced Lemon Pound Cake both have over 70 ingredients!

Starbucks Coffee Cake

Iced Lemon Pound Cake

Ingredients in Starbucks food products still include:

  • Refined Flours – White flour that has been stripped of its nutrients (and sometimes bleached) 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 can be found in 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.

food babe - starbucks

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.

Want to know what else could be lurking in natural flavors? Check out this video. 
food babe - starbucks frap

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 or artificial sugars, natural and artificial flavors, GMOs, and a substance called caramel coloring. California recently included caramel coloring on its annual list of carcinogens that require warning labels.

Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150d)

Light Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Water, Sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carrageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)

Mocha Sauce: Corn Syrup, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Cocoa (processed with alkali 13%), Potassium Sorbate (preservative E202), Artificial Flavor.

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?
food babe - starbucks free internet

Despite all these ways in which Starbucks can sabotage me, I have to be honest, I still like to use their free internet when traveling. 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 (don’t forget to leave a good tip for the barista – it’s not their fault Starbucks is sabotaging you). 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 while traveling too.


Food Babe

P.S. If you have a friend or family member that drinks Starbucks – or is wasting their money while getting sabotaged at the same time, please share this information with them. I know they will be incredibly grateful, and will likely save a few bucks now too.

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225 responses to “Top 5 Ways To Get Sabotaged at Starbucks

  1. foodbabe, you really seemed to hit a nerve with this posting! Whether you like Starbucks or not, I don’t see anything wrong with someone stepping out front to report many of the hidden ingredients. Then everyone can make their own decisions about patronage. I’ve stopped going there realizing it’s just another expensive, fancy fast food place. I would also check out the ingredients in the new bakery products. As an example, the crumb cake contains carageenan. a no/no on my list.

  2. I agree with everything except the first thing. Pestecides are sprayed over the exterior of the fruit. Not on the bean itself. The fruit is washed then the flesh is discarded leaving the actual coffee beans untouched by the pesticide.

  3. All true (except the banana smoothie that one doesn’t have anything bad) the only problem with bringing the truth to light is that people who eat/drink there don’t care; if a person is getting a frapp everyday do you really think they care about their health?

    1. That’s how I feel, Amy…sad. Why do companies (people who make these decisions within the company) keep serving this junk knowing it is harming human health?
      (I know the easy answer is money, profits, but there is more to it than that…)

  4. Sadly I already know this and drink the soy milk anyway. I was told I can’t have dairy or gluten and have relied on Soymilk to help me survive without my Dairy.

      1. Unfortunately many almond milks have carrageenan. I looked at almond, coconut, and others all have carrageenan. The only one I found is Organic Rice dream. Which I am sure is very processed. Soooo if anyone has a particular brand and store to get it. Please pass along.

    1. I have developed a milk allergy and have switched to organic black coffee. Do I miss the milk? At first, yes, but it’s what I’ve gotten used to now. I drink my coffee black, and I don’t eat cereal (I try not to eat any processed foods) or anything else that requires milk or its substitute. It takes some getting used to, but I save the calories and I have found I enjoy other foods just as much.

      1. I can’t have milk because I was tested and found to be allergic to Casein in milk. I also have to avoid Gluten. It is common for people that have an immune reaction to gluten to also have an immune reaction to Casein.

  5. Please do some research on how bad soy milk is for women. If you’re going to drink there, perhaps see if your location offers almond or coconut milk as an alternative.

    1. I drank soy milk as an alternative to dairy and I felt like I was dying. I didn’t realize it at first. My joints ached and my attitude was horrible. I ran out and bought some more about two weeks later. I resumed drinking it again and started to feel badly again. I soon realized it was the soy making me feel the way I did.

      1. Just so you know the cherry of the coffee is sprayed with pesticides, not the coffee bean. Also, the red dye derived from the bugs was due to the fact that many people are allergic to the normal red dye and that was the alternative. Now the strawberry base has been changed twice to make it healthier. Also all of the baked goods have been changed over and have new recipes. I am not certain about the soy, but you can bring your own almond milk in for the Batista’s to make you a latte with if you want an alternative. The refreshers are actually all made with a different base. That is why if you drink the drink without the fruit it will taste differently. And the frappucino base pictured is no longer used either…. Just saying maybe you should talk to the people that work there to help you find something that fits your needs. At least Starbucks puts back into all of the communities that produce their coffee. That is why it is so expensive and why I would rather support them than Dunkin or McDonalds.

      2. i brought my own milk to have it made into a latte and the barista would NOT do it due to potential cross contamination…… i.e. my milk might contaminate their equipment…….. i’d check with your local shop before making the assumption the baristas will steam your own milk.

  6. What are your sources for the claims,

    “but most people don’t know that regular consumption of conventional coffee can be a serious source of pesticide exposure.”

    “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.”


  7. I’m disappointed Starbucks. Let me know when you get your act together so I can buy your coffee again.

  8. I am a starbucks manager. I follow your blog and love the things you post. I am not going to get into the specifics of what goes into our drinks but Starbucks is committed to our new food program. I just want you to be able to blog truth. The foods that you have listed on this blog are not even served at Starbucks anymore. Starbucks has recently partnered with a new french bakery called La Boulange. You can check them out at . All of the pastries you find at Starbucks now are made with all natural ingredients, and REAL butter. That is the active ingredient. The line also includes gluten free and vegan options.

    1. Starbucks Manager,

      Since you haven’t corrected her on the drinks, I am assuming she 100% accurate. As for the pastries, all natural ingredients can literally mean anything. “All natural” is not regulated and companies use this as a marketing technique, which makes people think it is healthy.

      1. I read the chocolate flourless cookie is made with soy oil not butter. Care to comment if i’m wrong.

  9. I just want to point out that #1 is a bit inaccurate. They serve an Organic Yukon gold. You have to ask for it. Also I think a coffee called Komodo (?) is also Organic. But just the fact that they use GMO ingredients does it for me. I won’t support anything by Monsanto.

  10. So wait – were we all thinking that Starbucks was a place filled with healthy pastries? If the food isn’t made at the location it has to have some sort of preservative to keep it “fresh” enough for purchase and sustain a shelf life that isn’t detrimental to the business’s investment.

    All nutritional facts are readily posted on, the App, and Calories are posted inside the store. Are we really that upset to find that anything outside of black coffee has some sort “unreasonable” ingredient (i.e. sugar, sugar substitutes, food dyes, the “wrong type” of dairy etc.) ? Some people are adamantly against whole milk while others are against soy both of which will regain popularity in due time.

    I’m just surprised that the general public is “shocked” at this type of news…everything in moderation folks.

    1. To Adnek: Um yeah, we are all concerned, saddened, and shocked. I’m shocked that anyone would be surprised at this notion. We truly wanted to continue to love the institution of Starbucks. And the article doesn’t skip the actual coffee, so your confusing comment “anything outside of black coffee” doesn’t avoid the quite shocking reveal in the #1 way to get sabotoged at Starbucks: pesticides; ethyl acetate; methylene chloride; chlorpyrifos.

      I can say, along with the general public, that I have never seen an option to choose organic coffee while being served at Starbucks. Very surprising. Moderation in everything, yes, especially pesticides, please…

  11. in response to an email sent to 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.

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


    customer service

  12. My question is if this is from 7/18/2012, have you checked to see if it is still accurate before resharing on FB?

    I personally hate Starbucks but the truth should always be the truth & not based on outdated info

  13. Save your money and brew your own, or just go there to use your laptop. I think people just want a cool place to hang out. I also don’t like how they have to have a Starbucks on every corner, it seems like they have a very Mcdonalds type of agenda. I also suggest bringing your own cup and use the word “refill” which it is and get a discount while saving cups.

    1. Agreed. Here in Canada we are fortunate enough to have Blendz and many other better coffee places. Some even make their own goods instead of manufacturing them :D. The lemon loaf and banana loaf have always made me sick and they’re the most favourite of mine to bake and eat. I’ll eat the banana apple and their tea that’s about it

    1. I’m confused. Why do you say you’ve learned there’s “nothing natural about Peet’s coffee”?

  14. I came here to find out about the “hearty veggie & brown rice” salad bowl and to see if there were any GMO ingredients in it. It’s one of my favorite things to eat at Starbucks as it is filling and seems very healthy.

  15. Actually I’ll just leave it in this post instead of replying to myself. Carrageenan is a seaweed product and is also used in lieu of gelatin as a vegan substitute. You may want to do a little more research there honey :D. The sulphates in it are a naturally occurring thing 😀

  16. If your going to mention dye being made out of bugs, at least provide more context instead of stating it in such a slanderous way. Cochineal (the dye mentioned here) may be made from bugs, but other synthetic red dyes such as Red No. 2 and Red No. 40, which carry far greater health risks, are derived from either coal or petroleum byproducts. There are absolutely no health risks with cochineal unless you’re allergic to it, and the way it’s manufactured means it’s completely sterile and safe. It’s also used in a ton of foods and cosmetics today. Before making statements like the one you started the article with, do some research and provide more background information instead of making blanket statements that make the company look as if they were intentionally doing something malicious.

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