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You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy)

Updated 4/6/2015 (see bottom of post)

I really love the smell of pumpkin (especially in the Fall), but, there is at least one seasonal pumpkin treat that I will never order and that’s the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. With more than 200 million sold to date, these drinks sell like hotcakes this time of year, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said it “still ranks as its most popular seasonal beverage”. But, does anyone know what’s really in it?

I found out, and I’m going to break it all down for you here.  

FB_SBPumpkinSpicePreviewImage_2

But first, I want to mention that I get riled up when restaurants refuse to disclose their ingredients, because we have the right to know what we are eating and drinking. I’ve tried for years to get ingredient information from Starbucks and it’s been a bit frustrating to say the least. If you’ve ever tried emailing their customer service for ingredients you probably know what I’m talking about.

This week, we emailed them asking for the complete list of ingredients in the Pumpkin Spice Latte and this was their response:

“The Pumpkin Spice Latte is of pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors combined with espresso and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch”.

After several more emails back and forth, they were still refusing to share the ingredients:

While we understand that some customers would like to know the nutrition information for their specific customized beverage, unfortunately we are unable to provide this level of detail for every beverage customization request. The beverage information that is available on Starbucks.com reflects the beverage offerings currently on our menu with the most common customization options.

For a company that prides itself in its transparency, it’s unbelievable to me that this is how they respond to customers who ask for information about what’s in their drinks. After really putting the pressure on, I was finally able to get the complete list, but it wasn’t easy. While they list some ingredients on their website, they still do not list the ingredients in their most popular items: their drinks! This includes all of their lattes, frappuccinos, macchiatos, smoothies, etc. Starbucks doesn’t even publish the ingredients in their “Kid’s Drinks” – keeping parents completely in the dark. If you have a food allergy, their allergen information isn’t available online either.

How’s that for transparency?

Besides trying to get an employee to spill the beans, pretty much the only way to get the ingredients in their drinks is to go into their online store and search for each of the individual components that make up these drinks, but they are not all listed here. Quite frankly, this is a pain. This also requires you to know all of the components that make up the drink that you order. For instance, the Pumpkin Spice Latte isn’t just espresso, syrup and milk. If you order it the usual way on the menu, it contains espresso, pumpkin sauce, steamed milk (or soy milk), whipped cream and spice topping – and these each come with their own ingredient list.  

Another way to get ingredients is to email and call customer service, or to ask a corporate contact at Starbucks (if you’re lucky enough to know one like me). We used all of these avenues to get the ingredients in this drink, and you know what?  

We got different ingredients. 

Overall, the ingredients were similar, but there were slight differences. We initially called Starbucks customer service and they said that all of the syrups sold in their online store are the same ones that are used in the restaurant, and that specifically the Pumpkin Sauce is the same. The online version  here says Pumpkin Sauce contains high fructose corn syrup. They also divulged the ingredients in the whipped cream, spice topping, and soy milk.  

Shortly thereafter, we also received a response to our email inquiry and this is when things became shady.

This time the ingredient list they sent over didn’t have any high fructose corn syrup on it. Rather, it was replaced with “sweetened condensed nonfat milk”.  After a couple email exchanges, they seemed to confirm that HFCS is an ingredient:

“Yes the sauce that we sell online at www.starbucks.com is that same sauce that we use in our stores. I understand you concerns about high fructose corn syrup being used in the Sweentened Condensed Nonfat Milk. Please be aware that product information is provided to us by the suppliers who manufacture food and beverage items for Starbucks Coffee Company. Variations may exist due to periodic changes in formulations. While we attempt to provide product information that is as complete as possible, product changes or new product introductions may cause this information to become outdated or incomplete. Products may vary from location to location”.

I wasn’t done yet. I also contacted a PR rep at Starbucks whom I had been in contact with previously and asked her to send me the ingredients. According to her, “The condensed milk is sweetened with sugar (no HFCS)”.

As you can see, this makes for a very confusing customer experience, and I still don’t really know if it contains high fructose corn syrup (or not).

Why won’t they just publish ingredients online and end the confusion?

They obviously know what the ingredients are in each of their drinks, so I see no reason for them to hold back from publishing them (in their entirety) online just like they do for their food items. This would make it easy for their customers to know exactly what they are drinking. I believe the reason that they’re dragging their feet is because they don’t want you to know about the harmful additives in their biggest selling items.

Case In Point: You’ll get 2 doses of Class IV Caramel Coloring in Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte.

FB_SBPumpkinSpiceLatte_5-2

You’ve probably heard me talk about caramel coloring before, and that’s because I think it’s one of the most hazardous chemicals being added to our food. Although it sounds harmless, food safety and consumer watch dog groups say it is not.  

There are four different types (classes) of caramel coloring and two of those types contain the dangerous substance 4-methylimidazole (4-Mel).  Starbucks uses Class IV Caramel Color, considered the most harmful type that contains 4-Mel, in many of their drink syrups and sauces. It’s even in their whipped cream!  

Why Starbucks should stop using Class IV Caramel Coloring immediately:

  • It’s created in a laboratory by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature, which produces the byproduct 4-Mel.
  • A U.S government funded study found that feeding mice caramel coloring IV (which contained 4-Mel) increased their risk of developing lung cancer and leukemia, at every dosage level
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies 4-Mel as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
  • Any food or drink that contains more than 29 micrograms of 4-Mel requires a cancer warning label In California (under Prop 65) that says, “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.” 
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to ban caramel coloring in 2011 due to safety concerns and the cancer risk of allowing this ingredient in our food.
  • It has no nutritional benefits and is only used cosmetically to improve the appearance of food and drinks, yet there are safer alternatives available to food manufacturers.
  • It’s sometimes added unnecessarily to food and drinks that are naturally brown or that are not even visible to the consumer (e.g. baby vitamin drops).
  • It’s the most widely used food coloring in the world, which makes it easy to consume excessive amounts.
  • Thankfully, the FDA is currently reviewing its safety and GRAS status, due to a Consumer Reports study that found excessive levels in many popular drinks.

In previous correspondence with Starbucks, they told me they have no plans to remove the ingredient and, “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”. I haven’t seen any testing results that show the exact levels of 4-Mel found in Starbucks drinks, so we just have to take their word for it on this one. Also, even if the level is below what’s allowed, what if someone has a Vente (Starbuck’s largest size) with the double dose of caramel coloring within the syrup and whipcream – what’s the amount of caramel coloring then? Even if the levels are below what’s permitted in California, it’s still not safe. In the opinion of toxicologist Dr. Urvashi Rangan, “There is no ‘safe’ level of 4-MeI, but if you have set a threshold, it should be well below the Prop 65 level (29 micrograms/day) – and more like 3 micrograms/day”Roasted coffee itself has been shown to contain trace amounts of 4-Mel. Couple that with the fact that this coloring is in just about every processed food you can imagine, so you may be cumulatively eating more of this stuff than you realize – and no amount is safe.  

Would you really care if the syrup and sauces that they squirt into your coffee are colored brown? It’s going into brown coffee anyhow…. it’s totally ridiculous to me that caramel coloring is even considered a necessary ingredient and that Starbucks doesn’t ask their suppliers to completely remove it. 

Where’s the pumpkin?

FB_SBPumpkinSpiceInGREEDients_3

After reading the ingredients in the Pumpkin Spice Latte, I can tell you that there’s absolutely no pumpkin. Instead, you’ll be drinking this:

  • A Huge Dose of Sugar – A lot of it. Order up a non-fat grande and you’ll get served 50 grams of sugar. Is it a pick-me-up from the caffeine, or all that toxic sugar?
  • Monsanto Milk – Even though over a hundred thousand customers are demanding it, Starbucks refuses to serve organic milk (at all locations). Due to consumer pressure, they stopped using milk from cows injected with growth hormones several years ago, but their milk still comes from cows that are fed genetically modified feed all day long – which is really supporting Monsanto and the biotech companies. When cows survive primarily on a cheap grain diet (corn, soy, alfalfa, cotton) it’s bad for the health of the animals, which is contributing to the overuse of antibiotics and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If they made the switch to organic milk, or even offered it for that matter, it would ensure that it didn’t come from cows grazing on GMO grains or injected with antibiotics.
  • Pesticide Residue – Starbucks doesn’t serve organic coffee in most locations. Non-organic coffee is considered one of the heaviest chemically treated crops in the world, especially when it’s imported from developing nations that allow pesticides that are restricted in the U.S. due to health concerns, such as Chlorpyrifos.
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors – Since this drink contains absolutely no pumpkin, this is where all that flavor comes from. The problem with both artificial and natural flavors is that their sources are proprietary and you never really know what they are made from. 
  • Preservatives and Sulfites – Which may cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks, and is linked with DNA damage.

If you’re vegan, I have a specific warning for you.

Many of you may be shocked to find out that when you order a Pumpkin Spice latte with soy milk, it’s still not vegan. This is because the Pumpkin Sauce contains condensed nonfat milk, and many Starbucks employees don’t realize this and have misinformed customers. This is yet another reason that Starbucks Corporate should be transparent about what’s in their drinks by publishing complete ingredients online. 

You’ll also get more than you bargained for if you order up a soy latte, because the Starbucks “proprietary” organic soy milk contains carrageenan – which is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and cancer.  It also contains another dose of added sugar, preservatives and natural flavors. 

Complete Ingredients in Starbucks “Pumpkin” Spice Latte:

Milk, Espresso (Water, Brewed Espresso Coffee), Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce (Sugar, Condensed Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sweetened Condensed Nonfat Milk (Milk, Sugar), Annatto (for color), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color (class IV), Salt, Potassium Sorbate (preservative)), Whip Cream (Whipping Cream, Starbucks Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Caramel Color (class IV))Pumpkin Spice Topping: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfites.

SOY OPTION:

Starbucks Organic Soy Milk (plain): Filtered Water, Organic Whole Soybeans, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Organic Vanilla Flavor, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B12, Zinc Gluconate.

Starbucks Organic Soy Milk (vanilla): Filtered Water, Organic Whole Soybeans, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Vanilla Flavors, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B12.

Ditch the Starbucks and Drink This Instead!

Mama Natural has a version of a homemade pumpkin spice latte that actually uses real pumpkin! And 100 Days of Real Food has a few quick and easy alternative recipes – see help graphic below. 

pumpkin-spice-chart

You can also try a latte with my homemade pistachio milk, which is one of my favorite treats! Also, seek out locally-owned organic fair trade coffee shops in your area. My favorite is Larry’s Beans Organic Fair Trade coffee. 

Starbucks: Stop Putting Toxic Chemicals In Your Pumpkin Spice Latte.

  1. Tell Starbucks to remove unnecessary carcinogenic caramel coloring by commenting on their Facebook and Twitter pages. 
  2. Call their customer service department at 1-800-782-7282 and ask them to remove these harmful additives and post all of their ingredients online.
  3. Join GMO Inside and sign the petition asking them to serve organic milk at all locations. 
  4. Share this blog post with everyone you know. The more people that know the truth, the more Starbucks will be forced to make a change. 

Thank you for your activism and spreading the word in advance. Together we can change the food system. Hopefully in the near future, we can have treats like these without worrying about the toxic chemicals in them!

Xo,

Vani 

Update 4/6/2015: I received an email from Starbucks representatives that they have started to remove caramel coloring level IV. “we recently transitioned the vanilla syrup in our US and Canada stores to a new formula which is free from caramel coloring. We prioritized vanilla as it is an ingredient in our whipped cream, so with this one change we removed caramel coloring from many beverages. We are actively working on the rest and don’t have a specific timeline to share at this time.” Go Food Babe Army Go! 

 

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928 responses to “You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy)

      1. If you read the Snopes.com post you’ll see that they say that everything is hunky dory because they list the ingredients on their site, but she says in her post that she saw those ingredients already. The link that they provided was the same one that she provided in the post even. What she said was wrong with that website was that they are different ingredients than what they sent to her in an email. Hence, there is a problem.

      2. They posted a link to the website, which in here it says they lied in the website about what is in it. Also they put a big old false writing at the beginning of the article, not providing any evidence previous to that to support their claim.

    1. Thanks for your report about the Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Starbucks. Here is what I do I have one or at the mot two per season and I get the Venti Sized Non Fat PSL with no whipped cream.

      People here are drinking this on a daily basis. I will have it as a seasonal treat just like with the Eggnog Latte(I limit myself) and I don’t go for their Frappuchinos for the most part.

      If you enjoy it in moderation and don’t rely on sugar then its a fabulous treat. If you want more then make your own the healthy way.

    2. No, some of it isn’t true. Saying that something is bad because it’s petroleum based is fear-mongering. Also, study on pesticides in coffees from dozens of locations, for example, has found that most samples contain no measurable amount of pesticide (which makes sense because the outside of the plant is treated, not the bean). Another study found that the roasting process eliminates or reduces the presence of these pesticides. Also, the FDA has said that “Based on the available information, FDA has no reason to believe that there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel coloring.” However misleading this article is, a latte is not healthy for you.

      1. You essentially threw any shred of credibility out the window when you included “the FDA has said…” in your post, but please explain how ingesting petroleum in any form could potentially be considered “good” for your body?

  1. I am very sensitive to Caramel coloring (asthmatic symptoms and worse if I have too much) and it is VERY hard to figure out where it is lurking. Starbucks was the first place I stopped going to- but diet foods, lunch meats, and beer (though I don’t drink it) are also culprits. .. I’ve had to call many places that don’t even list it on the ingredients after having a reaction.

    I find it interesting that so many people are up in arms about this post. Obviously, this is a natural food blog and you should expect to see an opinion on GMO’s, a high sugar diet, and the like… why hate on this person? If you don’t mind the GMO’s great! If you like sugar… fine! Move on to a different blog lol. Thanks food babe! I find your experience interesting and enlightening.

    1. I feel for you with all of the things that you have to double check before you can eat/drink them. I recently discovered that I am HORRIBLY allergic to Stevia (all natural!) and I have to read pretty much every label I encounter before I eat/drink anything. Even foods/beverages that I have had before. It’s tough. I wish more things were made with less ingredients. I guess in the long run it’s better for me…I save a little money!!

    2. Jacque… THANK YOU for the info on asthmatic symptoms from caramel coloring. I never knew about this link and think it may be a culprit in some of my own and my family’s health issues.
      Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly with you about the ‘haters’ on this post, though upon further thought, many of them may be (paid or unpaid) Starbucks trolls…. it’s a HUGE conglomerate with many ‘irons in the fire’ and lot of holdings to protect so I can’t imagine they don’t have people who do nothing more all day than sit and look for negative comments/blogs/stories about Starbucks in order to shoot them down and refute them immediately.
      That said, if the naysayers visiting this healthy food/lifestyle INFORMATIONAL blog about FACTUAL dangers by GMO’s to EVERYONE’S health, really do have a contention about this story, they certainly would do better to leave.

      There is simply nothing they can say and NO WAY they will ever change the minds of folks who have been sick from these heinous ingredients/additives and have found health again by eliminating them altogether. I still think they are Sbux trolls… 🙂

      Be well and thanks again for the great info on caramel coloring!

  2. Should we talk about what high fructose corn syrup has in it? Hint: its not healthy either….mercury. I think that should be 1st on the ban list its in everything almost!

  3. This is a comment from geoengineeringwatch.org. Why don’t you address geoengineering since it affects our food supply and virtually no food is healthy?

    ninasreality says:
    September 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm
    Dane – Your work is immeasurable and I thank you for every grieving, angst-filled moment you have suffered through for all the rest of mankind in this battle.
    Since 98′ I have been telling everyone, strangers on parking lots, in parks, co-workers, family, friends about this but now feel it is apparently futile.
    It absolutely sickens me that the Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists REFUSE to acknowledge the problem. I started calling them both a couple of years ago. At first they denied any knowledge. Last year when I called on them again, they both admitted that they were aware of it but would not be addressing the issue at this time.
    Then you have people out there like “FoodBabe.com” who can turn the masses overnight on their ear against “yoga-mat-bread” being served at Subway, or her latest crime against humanity – Starbucks toxic ingredient filled Pumpkin Spiced Latee’s. Ten million views on Facebook in only a couple of days… really?
    Don’t get me wrong, all these issues that I have mentioned have their own merit, but nothing compares in it’s gravity and weight than aerial spraying.
    How is it that this issue can never get any traction?
    Would you consider creating a “Put On Notice” watch list for everyone?
    Politely contact those in power to take a stand to address public concerns or else go on the list.
    Your list of those you have officially made it a ‘clear and present danger’ to but refuse to admit/deny their exsistance would be an easy beginning. Government officials and offices that have denied your science and research, put on the list. Groups, organizations like the Sierra Club, claiming to truly care about the environment, should be put on notice for their failure to address the issue and for not taking a public stand against it.
    Of course, contact them again, ask them to take a stand and if they don’t, include them.
    You have millions of visitors – please give us a place to take our fight.
    Let us, your followers contribute to the list by adding our local/state wide elected officials, governments, conservation departments, etc., with an easy online email notice.
    Tossed in there should be national and local media outlets. Especially the local meteorologist’s.
    It’s all just a thought and suggestion – my desperation is at it’s end. Please consider!!!

  4. While you are at it maybe ask Starbucks how they clean the coffee machines. Was in there once and saw a huge bottle of CLR on top of the coffee pot. I asked if they were using it to clean the coffee pots and they refused to answer me. When I emailed Starbucks HQ same response.

    1. I read a comment from someone who used to work there and she said they also use bleach to clean the machines. Hm.

      1. Yes they use bleach to sanitize the blenders. It’s required by FDA food code to sanitize food contact surfaces but that doesn’t mean they stick the blender or any utensils in full concentrated bleach. There is a specific concentration they are required to use that is not toxic. On another note, I think this website is ridiculous and this blogger should care about more substantial things in life.

  5. I would like to hear some reviews about the recipe provided in this post. Has anybody tried it yet? What do you think of it? Are there any other PSL recipes that people can recommend?

  6. But do you work at starbucks? No, i do and i know the ingredients that go into our handcrafted drinks.

      1. Our ingredient is weather the person wants whole milk,skim or 2% which the milk we use is hood milk. We use silk soymilk in our store and the pumpkin spice sauce we use is just pumpkin flavoring ,sugar and corn syrup . We add whip cream if requested which is just whipped cream from hood products with vanilla flavoring. And we had pumpkin spice topping which is a cinnamon blended with spices

      1. Get a job at starbucks, or better yet, open your own, “organic” coffee shop, then you can talk about how easy it is. Don’t knock someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.

      2. I actually worked as a barista for 5 years. And not only did we make specialty coffee drinks, we had to make alcoholic beverages as well. And now I manage a coffee bar that actually is all organic. Don’t think someone hasn’t walked in your shoes unless you know something about them. 😉

    1. It would be to your benefit to look at the ingredients on the items you put in. You say you just use soy milk, pumpkin flavoring, corn syrup, and vanilla flavoring as if those are all single ingredients. Take a look at the ingredients lists on the flavorings and soy milk, that is where you will find many of the other ingredients that Vani is blasting as being bad for you.

  7. Regarding the lack of real pumpkin… I always figured that this was not pumpkin flavored coffee, but pumpkin SPICE flavored coffee. You know, the spices you put in pumpkin pie. I never expected to find any real pumpkin in my coffee. It’s too stringing to make a good coffee. It would make a good smoothie, but nothing watery like coffee. I make something like this myself at home by sweetening my coffee with brown sugar and adding cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s awesome, and has no pumpkin in it.

  8. That definitely doesn’t sound good, but I don’t eat much and I don’t eat very badly either. I, for one, won’t stop drinking it. It’s heavenly divine. It’s my absolute favorite beverage and I am not willing to part with it. Even for my own health! It’s my guilty pleasure. Pumpkin season is my season! Like another commenter said, it’s not PUMPKIN flavored. It’s PUMPKIN SPICE flavored. I’m ok with that! 🙂

  9. Just FYI, the “Pumpkin” in PSL is part of the larger “Pumpkin Spice” like you can buy in the spice aisle at the grocery store. It’s the blend of spices usually used in things like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, hence “Pumpkin Spice.” There’s actually an Apple Pie Spice blend you can purchase, as well. So, the end of it is that there’s not supposed to be pumpkin in it. 🙂 There are great recipes for lattes with real pumpkin, though! Just do a quick google search.

    Also this from snopes.com: http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/pumpkinspicelatte.asp

  10. I just giggle (or gag) when people use Snopes to find their answer to *everything*!! I have no idea who runs Snopes but this is well-researched and all they did was put up a sign that read “False”. Just one word. No explanation why, and people run there gleefully just to try to prove others wrong.

    I appreciate the work you have clearly done here – I think people feel like they don’t want to give up a habit, so “You must be wrong”, but the proof really is here and is in line with what I’ve been learning the past few years. I very much appreciate the info and was thrilled to see a recipe/links for a better choice. My Mother loves this drink, so I will definitely whip one up for her! Thank you again, very much.

    1. Snopes is independently operated by a husband-and-wife team named Barbara and David Mikkelson. Also, if you scroll down on the page, they spend 7 paragraphs explaining their decision to classify the claim as false.

      Basically, what it seems to come down to is a) the discrepancy (noted in this article) between the ingredients as posted on Starbucks’ website and as given by their PR reps and, b) how justified one finds the current FDA rulings on caramel colouring, which is a whole issue unto itself.

      My only point being (as a long-time Snopes reader), both positions have some valid arguments to them, both are well researched, neither is born of sheer laziness.

      1. Upon reading the Snopes decision, it appears that the “False” Snopes assigns is, itself, false. If any reasoning person can see both sides and can understand that 1) the claim against Starbucks is perhaps overstated, 2) that Starbucks, on the other hand, is not being consistent and transparent, and 3) that the FDA is merely making a tepid declaration that the food coloring won’t kill you IMMEDIATELY – well, those 3 elements together do not bring anyone to the conclusion that the claims against Starbucks are entirely false. So why would Snopes arrive at the “False” conclusion?

      2. This comment is in response to anna_chronistic on September 29th. For some reason, there’s no “reply” button on that particular comment, so I’m just going to leave this here:

        I entirely agree that the decision is a subjective one that could be argued either way. That was more or less my original point. As for the people at Snopes, they address this in their FAQ:

        “Many of the texts we discuss contain a mixture of truth, falsity, and exaggeration which cannot be accurately described by a single “True” or “False” rating. Therefore, an item’s status is based upon the most important aspect(s) of the text under discussion, which is summarized in the statement made after the “Claim:” heading at the top of the page. It is important to make note of the wording of that claim, since that is the statement to which the status applies.” [http://www.snopes.com/info/faq.asp#bTUqeoAi6QwCw0jb.99]

        Going back to the Starbucks PSL article, the claim they’ve addressed is: “Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte contains numerous toxins, and the coffee giant is hiding the drink’s ingredient list.” As phrased, the claim is not proven, either by the infographic or by Snopes’ external research. The FDA’s “tepid declaration” might raise some (entirely reasonably) doubts for consumers, but it doesn’t mean that the colouring is or even probably is “toxic.” Likewise, Starbucks’ inconsistency is worrying, but the ingredient list itself is not being actively hidden — more like the implications thereof are being obfuscated, possibly unintentionally. Further down, the article notes that “the claims are framed in such a way as to suggest the company has deliberately deceived its customers,” which doesn’t seem to be consistent with the communications actually presented here.

        In other words, the claims (or at least the claims Snopes has stated they’re addressing) ARE overstated, to the point of being undemonstrable. If we place the burden of proof on the party making a claim, as Snopes does, then that explains the “False” declaration. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely specious or that everyone should run out and buy a PSL right now, just that the positive claim made in the infographic doesn’t really have much backing it up.

        Now, you could make the argument that the way Snopes has phrased the claim is, in fact, a bit of a strawman and that they infographic actually allows for a level of uncertainty consistent with the facts. There are, after all, a couple of squirrelly phrases, if you look closely: “considered,” “linked to,” a liberal use of quotation marks. Clearly, though, that’s not the way it’s been received by a large portion of its intended audience.

  11. Hey Food Babe thanks again for the informative article ! I will totally be sharing this with friends , as I live on the west coast ( Vancouver , BC ) and there is literally a Starbucks on every corner .
    From what I have noticed , the ” Pumpkin Spice Latte ” has always been a favorite of predominately white , upper middle class , yuppie females of all ages , along with the ” Caramel Macchiato ” ( which must be pretty bad for you as well )
    It’s pretty ironic how this demographic is often obsessed with eating healthy , working out , yoga , gluten free , organic , vegan/vegetarian diets , yet will slurp down 1 or more Pumpkin Spice Lattes/Caramel Macchiatos a day with little to no thought about what is in it .
    Personally I despise Starbucks and prefer to support independant coffee shops , however due to work meetings and its popularity in Vancouver I often have to go there whether I want to or not . I have gotten their Chai Latte before and i actually find that quite tasty , how much crap and toxic garbage is in that one ?
    Thanks and keep up the good work !

    1. Thanks for the gender racist comment…. you know, because only white chicks drink this drink… *smdh* so no one else wants to be healthy? Lol

    2. I myself happen to be a white, upper-middle class 20 year old female, and i think i can speak for the million of others whom you just caddishly stuck into that ill fitting stereo-type, a Chai Latte happens to be the “whitest white girl” drink on a Starbucks menu.

      If you happen to be concerned about health hazards caused by a shocking amount of sugar, don’t order a drink that is a diabetic coma in a cup. Opt for drip or espresso, agave and a little frothy milk.

      1. …agave is sugar. actually…it’s mostly corn syrup. Culinary Arts trade secret.

  12. Washington created the system that allows this to happen so blame your politicians.
    I agree that what is in our food supply chains today is questionable and I would never consider this drink mainly for what it is rather than what might be in it. I go to these establishments for one thing, coffee! I’m not in it for fluffy drinks they like to invent to keep you interested and take two minutes just to verbalize your order! However, let’s be real.
    1) If you want to eat healthy, calorie rich establishments like this with all kinds of sweet stuff is the wrong place to be to begin with. If the world likes to beat up on sugar then put simply, don’t order that Frappuccino! It’s a loose loose proposition considering those low cal sweeteners, as they either don’t taste as good or are just as bad.
    2) To some focusing on Pumpkin as a distraction of choice just to beat up on those that choose to use the term generically for marketing purposes consider this. One could easily argue that we are talking about a favoring here and that the focus is on the “Spice” used for such recipes that may also involve pumpkins!
    3) Even if these chains could source all the raw materials in the world to satisfy the volume demand they deal with naturally the drink would cost $6 – $8 compared to trying to replicate the flavor of these “Spices” artificially.
    The FDA (granted it is debatable as to whether we should truly trust them, but blame your politicians for caving to lobbyists and choosing not to fund them in general) states that the caramel coloring is safe in moderation. However, that still leaves me with enough doubt to realize the following. It’s all about healthy choices to begin with and when you simply look at one of these for what it is in its basic form, this is not one of them! Treat yourself when you can to one made at home. That’s what a true Pumkin Spice drink is and should be as celebration of Fall. It will be more rewarding to you soul even if it’s still not the healthiest thing out there to begin with.
    Until Washington is willing to stand up for us with concreate reform it is up to us to find those healthy choices. Health food shops and natural cafes that serve the coffee that you are looking for exist in part because the system cannot be trusted. These are the places we should be if we don’t want to have to worry as much about what’s in our cup of joe!

  13. Crap like this really ticks me off. Not everyone wants things they enjoy ruined for them. Sometimes articles like this are just ridiculous! Everything you touch now a days has something in it that will supposedly make you think twice before touching it. Give it a rest!

    1. So in other words, you want to remain blissfully ignorant of the toxic garbage you’re putting in your body. Ever hear of shooting the messenger?

      1. Practically everything you eat at restaurants or cafes are probably what you consider “toxic garbage”. If people knew everything that went in everything we eat (and refused to eat it), nobody would go out to eat. Drinking lattes at Starbucks hasn’t killed millions of people (or any that I know of, unless it was a freak accident). You might as well try to convince the world to stop eating McDonald’s, too. Lord knows what’s in their foods, but guess what? If I want a BigMac, none of your facts could stop me, just like this article. Good day

    2. Then you shouldn’t read articles like this. But don’t try to shut down this woman’s free speech just because you don’t agree with it. Go to Mcdonald’s if you want. I won’t tell you that they douse their potatoes with pesticides so strong, they have to air out for 5 weeks before they can be cooked. Oops….

      Personally, I make almost everything by hand and don’t go to restaurants anymore. No one seems to care about quality anymore, just profit. Well, they’ve lost mine.

  14. I had this Pumpkin Spice Latte this weekend. Did not like it. Way too bitter and it did NOT have any pumpkin taste to it. Will not be buying it again. Especially now that I read what it was made of.

  15. If you all are so worried about how unhealthy it is or can’t get the exact ingredients then simply don’t drink, don’t complain about it. I on the other hand like to enjoy things and if something tastes good and can wake me up, then i’m all for it. If you like to stay healthy just get a regular sugar free coffee at Starbucks, and if your not to worried get a PSL, obviously most of there sweet drinks are not going to be healthy just like every other good tasting food or beverage.

  16. All you have to do to find out ingredients in any drink at Starbucks is ask a barista. Or their supervisor, if they’re not sure. Ingredients are printed on all the syrups and sauces they use. No harm in asking a live person. Much easier than going through corporate resources. Just a thought…

  17. Starbucks drinks all taste like crap to me. I ordered the psl last night and drank 1/3 of it. I dumped out the rest. It just tasted like weird chemicals. No thanks. There are plenty of local espresso shops here in Seattle that serve organic milk, real whole ground spices, and delicious coffee because they actually grind their beans before each drink and pull real shots through the espresso machine, not some brainless passive act of pushing buttons like the Starbucks machines. OK that’s all.

    1. Get it right Nina, the automated machines they use also grind the beans right before brewing. You may want to note the large bean hoppers on the top of the machines. I also like the local shops, many produce a better espresso but some do not. Also not sure why you refer to what the machines produce as not a real shot. Totally is.

  18. A lot of Whole Foods Markets have an all organic coffee bar, meaning all ingredients used are organic- coffee, all milks (whole,2%,skim,soy, AND ALMOND!), which they don’t charge extra for, and syrups. I think that all their condiments are organic, too. and the drinks are less expensive. Hope that helps!

  19. There are never any added hormones or antibiotics in Canadian milk. It is a highly tested safe drink. CQM = Canadian Quality Milk is a program all Canadian dairy farmers follow helping assure we can produce the highest quality milk while keeping our cows happy and healthy! If anyone has any concerns I advise you to talk to your local farmers. It’s easy to get caught up in hype but they will be able to give you the truth and facts on how dairy farms are operated.

    1. There are also no anibiotics in US milk, it’s illegal. There are few brands that use growth hormone anymore, you stil have to watch lables though.

  20. I am not surprised at all that starbucks wouldn’t be able to tell you what is in their drinks. I am sure each location has different vendors that provide products example Ben E. Keith etc or Sysco. Each restaurant supplier would have different ingredients available w/ different things in them. It is simple if you like something you should make it yourself or visit small businesses where you can personally speak w/ the owner and not feed into high dollar chains. I personally have become so paranoid that I have completely change my way of life to move away from depending on corp.’s they really don’t care its obvious.

  21. Doing the math you say that a grande has over 50 grams of sugar
    That equates to well over 31cm^3 of sugar, PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to dissolve in that much water let alone something thicker like a latte

    1. This isn’t actually true. Sugar dissolves so you cannot use dry bulk density in the calculation. Look at a label of can of coke, it has 39 grams per 12 oz which would work out to 52 grams per 16 oz.

  22. Everyone is all up-in-arms about pumpkin spice foods and drinks not having pumpkin in them. I think they’re all confused by the name “pumpkin spice”. Most of these items are not supposed to taste like pumpkin AND spices; they are supposed to taste like pumpkin spice: the spice combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves that goes in pumpkin recipes such as pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread.

    As far as I’m concerned, the only things I want to taste like pumpkin are pumpkin desserts and breads. Starbucks can keep their over-priced coffee confection.

  23. As much as I would love organic milk to be used at Starbucks, their prices would probably double. That would not be feasible when the majority of the public don’t care. I’ve also had my eyes opened about organic pesticides and the general state of prganics in the US. Unless you know exactly what pesticides are being used on your ingredients, the organic ones can be just as harmful and sometimes even more so, especially to the environment. Don’t take my word for it, seriously, the more research everyone does for themselves the better. Honestly though, who orders a pumkin spice latte thinking it’s a healthy drink?

    1. There’s unhealthy, and then there’s cancer. There’s a big difference between drinking something fattening and sugary, and ingesting carcinogens. I have a terrible family history of cancer, cancer that strikes in middle age, and want to avoid every carcinogen possible.

  24. Wow, this whole article is absurd. Starbucks is an amazing company. If you have such a problem with the way they make their beverages, then DONT buy them!!!! It’s simple as that. Quit wasting your time writing emails and get a real job. Thanks. Sincerely, a PROUD STARBUCKS PARTNER

  25. i work at Starbucks. At my store if you ask the ingredients I will read it off the bottle for you. As a matter of fact everyone of our partners knows it is milk based so when customers ask for soy we let them know it still contains milk. Not that they get the soy cuz they r lactos intolerant, because they still load up on the whip cream. And if your looking for a drink with out sugar, then maybe you should try some of our amazing brewed coffee…black of course.

    1. Stop trying to shut down free speech. Public pressure is the only thing keeping most companies in check.

      1. Where did she tell Food Babe that this article needed to be taken down or that she should stop what she is doing? She is just sharing her experience working at Starbucks. By telling her to stop YOU are the one trying to prevent free speech. Of all the comments to post this one makes no sense. Unless you are somehow misreading “you should try some of our black coffee” as “DOWN WITH THE FIRST AMENDMENT!!! MORE CENSORSHIP!” in which case I think you need some new glasses.

        And for the record, I am not telling you to take this down or that you shouldn’t say it. I think you should leave it. I’m just using my right to free speech to express my own opinion that you’re a hypocritical idiot. It works both ways see?

  26. I am so lucky, I have electricity at home and my mother taught me how to make MY OWN DAMN COFFEE!

  27. How about this? Don’t like it? Don’t drink it. End of debate. You know what you are getting when you line up to get your speciality drinks. Stop telling yourself you don’t. Save $5 and donate it to a worthy cause.

  28. Thank you for this article. I am a Tim’s girl from Canada. I only get Starbucks if there is no other coffee option nearby (maybe 2-3 times a year). Starbucks has always been one of those companies I try to stay away from, like McDonald’s, and this article has now given me the knowledge I need to leave them forever.

    Tim Horton’s has all of their ingredients (in food and drinks) readily available on their website. They even have little pamphlets at every restaurant.

    Never trusting Starbucks again!

    1. Tim Horton has the worst coffee in the world! I have no clue how it can be so famous and their staff are so stupid. You ask them which coffee is stronger they reply, our coffee is not that strong. You tell them surely you should know.. When I go to Starbucks their baristas know exactly their products. Starbucks is one of the best coffee places I go to and I have compared their coffee with other shops and Starbucks is still on top of my list. I do not like the PSL though but I like their other coffees.

  29. Here’s an awesome idea… Brew espresso and steam milk yourself. Add Pumpkin Spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice) to the milk/latte using these common home ingredients. Now you’re being smarter, healthier, saving money, and you can customize the taste to your liking.

  30. fructose schmucktose. It’s been around for years. If you like the pumpkin spike latte then just freakin drink it.

  31. Vani,

    This is urgent! Snoops is attacking you which I am sure you know. One thing you can do to reply to them is mention that the sugar they mention is probably not cane sugar but is GMO beet sugar.

    Art

  32. When did Starbucks ever claim to put pumpkin in the latte? It’s “pumpkin spice” as in pumpkin pie spice, as in the kinds of spices you add to pumpkin pie.
    Also complaining that there’s no pumpkin in pumpkin spice is ridiculous because all of the lattes are made with flavored syrups anyway.

  33. I am actively against eating anything conventional and I have been against Starbucks since 1997 I have witnessed them coming into cities and opening several chain stores to basically close other small. Businesses then closing up stores to create an influx of clients in the area with no other place to get coffee. Thier business practices are atrocious they deny that they’ve ever employed this tactic. I have personally witnessed it and been victim to it. So why would I believe that this corporation employs the use of organic non conventional food sources.they are about big business not about health consciousness just my personal observation. Personally I say no to GMO’s.

  34. Of course there is no actual pumpkin in a pumpkin spice latte. There isn’t any actual pumpkin in pumpkin spice egg nog, pumpkin spice cocoa, or pumpkin spice oreos, either. The reason is because they are not making a PUMPKIN item, but rather a pumpkin SPICE item. The product is supposed to feature the spices that commonly go into a pumpkin pie, or the spice mix commonly known as pumpkin pie spice, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. I won’t argue with you over the rest of your article, and I don’t even drink coffee. But if you are wanting something that actually has pumpkin in it, it won’t be in anything called pumpkin SPICE.

  35. Thank you once again for revealing the HF corn syrup. I had asked if there were corn products in this drink, and was told no….my allergies were bothering me last week, and now I know why! (allergic to all corn!!!)

  36. Feel free to stop in at your local starbucks and ask a barista to see the bottle of pumpkin sauce. This bottle will be straight from the manufacturer and lists all the ingredients – which does say it included sweetened condensed milk. At my store, when a customer orders a soy, no whip pumpkin spice latte, we happily tell them the sauce includes dairy and ask if that is okay or if they would like to choose another drink. Not all baristas are ignorant 🙂

  37. If you’re worried about what you eat due to reactions I don’t blame you for wanting to know the ingredients in all food and beverages. However, if you do your research, faux sweeteners also contain carcinogens…..so how is that a healthier choice?! I would rather have hfcs or sugar. If you’re still worried about any other cancer causing agents then you should know that maybe you should reconsider your whole lifestyle. There is formaldehyde in hair products and the more expensive they are the higher the concentration and canned food contains BPH as well as some bottled water. So I really don’t care for people complaining of minuscule attributes of such products. Too all food and beverage companies do not have to disclose all information to the public and the FDA simply approves products to be suitable for selling NOT to judge if a product is healthy. I’m sure we all have common sense enough to figure that out (twinkies!!!!!)!

  38. Ok, I have a sulfite allergy so good to know. Starbucks also dose not want your business if you disagree with their political positions… So keep your pumpkin pie hole out of their store if your not in goose step with their ideas.

  39. A very big THANK YOU for this article. I found your site because we made our own pumpkin spice lattes this morning with our homemade pumpkin biscuits. And were curious to know what went into the Starbucks version. Among the points you make about lack of transparency is the almost ubiquitous use of the label “Natural Flavorings”. Glad to see I am not the only one that looks askance at that. Our nation’s favorite organic food market (the one where you might spend your whole paycheck) used to stock one of their organic products (undertheir private label) whose ingredients included Natural Flavorings. I emailed their customer service several times to get a breakdown, and no reply. Now I see that particular ingredient has been removed, but in its place is Yeast Extract. I know there’s controversy about Yeast Extract and MSG but I also know what greedy scamps Big Food can be. Eternal vigilance. You site is a big help.

  40. I’m really impressed about these findings because I have been going to Starbucks lately and have been consuming more of their products.

    My skepticism started when I saw a sign that said their products contain a chemical known as Acrylamide that is known to cause cancer because of its carcinogenic properties. (This chemical is in all of their coffee + most pastries, due to the roasting process).

    Then I started to consume their frappucinos and wondered why the whipped cream was so creamy and plastic-y and stuck to my teeth and made them feel slimy.

    I will stop consuming their products because it is not organic and it is completely harmful to health, it disgusts me how they set out their establishment to be. Their products are expensive as it is, it might as well be organic — am I right? Bye bye Starbucks..it was not meant to be. This is most likely just a fad that will crumble over the course of time.

  41. Vani- I don’t drink coffee but will often drink coffee substitutes. Have you done any research as to which substitutes would be safe, chemical free to drink? Thanks

  42. I’m a DinD man myself and I would never by a coffee at Starbucks, I had a sip once and it was the worst tasting stuff I’ve ever had, the only thing that came close to is was a coffee I got at a 7eleven I got back in 83. it smelt like it was sitting there all day.

  43. This article highlights natural flavors as a problem, and artificial flavors as a problem. What exactly is left?

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