Starbucks Gluten Free

Today I popped into Starbucks at lunchtime and was happy to find they sell two gluten free cakes, a Valencia Orange Cake and a Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Both looked pretty tasty and were separated from non gluten free cakes by small dividers. I was pleased to see this but after a closer look, I was surprised to discover that on the label next to these cakes it now not only said ‘gluten free’ and ‘wheat free’ as I had seen before but also said ‘not suitable for coeliacs’.

Why would Starbucks make a cake that was both ‘wheat free’ and ‘gluten free’ but that is ‘not suitable for coeliacs?’

I emailed Starbucks to find out:


I am Coeliac and therefore can only eat gluten free products. I have eaten in Starbucks a number of times those products that you state are ‘gluten free’ and ‘wheat free’ such as your chocolate fudge brownie and seasonally, your Christmas cake.

I visited one of your stores today and was surprised to discover that the labels next to your ‘gluten free’ products have now changed. Both the chocolate fudge brownie and valencia orange cake were labelled ‘gluten free’ and ‘wheat free’ but also ‘not suitable for coeliacs’. This is not something I have seen before and was wondering what has changed to make you change the labelling…

Have you changed your recipe? Do these products now contain gluten? If so, how can you claim that they are ‘gluten free?’ What purpose would there be to prepare snacks that are both wheat and gluten free but not suitable for coeliacs? There will be many people like me out there who will be very disappointed!

I’m very confused and would greatly appreciate an explanation as a coeliac who enjoys starbucks.

I’ll let you know once I get a response…

UPDATE: My response from Starbucks. I’m impressed with their detailed explanation and it looks as though as long as you ask staff for a gluten free cake still in it’s wrapping then you should be fine and eliminate the threat of contamination.  🙂

Dear Ms Emmerson

Thank you for taking the time to contact Starbucks Coffee Company.

The terminology we use of ‘Gluten and Wheat Free’ is in reference to the ingredients used in the items, and the environment in which the items are produced. Whilst we do all we can to reduce the risk of cross contamination in store, we cannot completely eliminate the risk from the display cases. All of our products are displayed in our pastry cases so that our customers can view the item they are choosing, and can assess any risk to their dietary requirements that may be present.

We have been working closely with, and listened carefully to customer feedback on this issue. As the pastry cases in which the Fairtrade Belgian chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Topped Valencia Orange Cake cake are displayed also hold items which do contain wheat and gluten, we cannot guarantee that the products are free from cross contamination, so we have decided to mark the products on display as ‘Not suitable for Ceoliacs’, to ensure the welfare of our customers.

The ingredients and preparation environment have not changed, and the Fairtrade Belgian chocolate Brownies and Chocolate Topped Valencia Orange Cakes do come to the store wrapped, so you are more than welcome to request them like this to eliminate the possibility of cross contamination if you wish.

I hope this answers your query, and if I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.

Yours sincerely

Customer Care Specialist

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  • I wish I had read this post first. If you are a celiac, DO NOT EAT THE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE from Starbucks. I had this as a treat as I was informed by the assistant that it is gluten free. After reading this post I know for certain I have been glutened. I have been strict gluten free since dec 13 following a diagnoses. I am gradually getter better but still have most of the symptoms except bloating. Before I left starbucks my stomach bloated (bloat free for 7 weeks -yey) and I needed the bathroom ultra quick. I haven’t done this since I started the GF diet. It can only be the brownie. Being a celiac or certainly a newly diagnosed celiac is hard enough, this will now set me back when I have so diligent with my diet. Thanks a lot starbucks.