I never thought I'd be forced to write about Starbucks so much in one week, but here I go again! I keep wanting to offer my Valentine's Day candy, baked goods posts and stuff keeps happening! Well, stay tuned for the V-Day stuff.
My friend Wendy of the excellent blog Celiacs in the House just sent me this link and I'm sure the Starbucks story is all over the allergy blogs today.
According to the news reports, a Canadian woman experienced a near fatal reaction after consuming a yogurt parfait in one of the Starbucks cafes. The item was not labeled as containing nuts, but it cut off oxygen to her brain, nearly killed her and ruined her eyesight in one eye. Read the full story here.
Well, there are a lot of things to be freaked out about here. The first one is, the allergic woman did "everything right" in terms of reading a label and asking the staff what's in the food item.
The problem is--who can you trust? The workers at Starbucks, if the parfaits are delivered to the store each a.m. as I assume they are, do they really know what's in it? Are they trained to know what ingredients go into their foods, even? How does Starbucks go about addressing food allergies? Like many of you, I've read labels that say nothing about potential allergens and others that say they may contain some of the "top 8" like nuts or dairy.
The other thing that freaks me out is this: though this certainly wasn't the woman's fault, I was given a list of potential nut-containing foods to avoid after my daughter was diagnosed. Granola--an ingredient of the allergenic Starbucks parfait--was one of those foods. I avoid granola like the plague. It's just too dicey--nuts are usually an ingredient. Why did this woman not do this? Well, she was in a hurry, she was busy, she was hungry. Unfortunately, when you're nut-allergic you can't just grab food like any other person without threat of a reaction. Carry food with you for those times when hunger strikes. That's another lesson we can learn from this.
Another thing: perhaps this woman hadn't had a reaction in awhile and had gotten a little complacent. So easy to do--I know I've been guilty of it myself. Unfortunately, you can't let your guard down. Ever. It's the only way to avoid a reaction. The story also doesn't say that she was carrying an EpiPen, either. I hope she was, but if she wasn't--another lesson learned. Don't leave home without it and teach your kids to do the same as they grow.
Starbucks is saying that the parfait was a "dessert item." For goodness' sake everybody, please avoid desserts if you have a nut allergy!!!! That's number one. In fact, Dr. Wood, author of Food Allergies for Dummies and a peanut-allergic individual himself, says that only once did he have a reaction from a "non-dessert" item. Every other time it was from cookies, a brownie or some other dessert. Unless you've made them yourself, please -- don't go near them!!
Vermont Nut Free now makes nut-free granola products and I think Enjoy Life Foods does as well. Maybe Starbucks should start stocking Enjoy Life items--maybe some already do.
Starbucks will no doubt receive a boatload of response about this and I hope they do the right thing. Giving someone a free "coffee card" isn't really going to cut it.
Just goes to show you that the food industry has a long way to go. So speak up everybody and remember--skip the desserts!