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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Starbucks Has a New Gluten-free Breakfast Sandwich! Or Do They?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Will Starbucks guarantee its new breakfast sandwich is gluten-free?


    Caption: Is Starbucks' new breakfast sandwich really gluten-free? Photo: Starbucks Gluten-free Breakfast Sandwich--Starbucks

    Celiac.com 03/24/2017 - Does it meet the FDA standard for a gluten-free product? Is it safe for people with celiac disease?

    Starbucks' new Gluten-Free Breakfast Sandwich looks yummy. But, why does Starbucks' website feature a disclaimer saying the company cannot guarantee the absence of allergens, including wheat?

    The sandwich itself is pretty standard fare, consisting of two slices of cherrywood-smoked Canadian bacon, an egg patty and reduced-fat white cheddar on a gluten-free roll.

    The company website uses boldface type to tout the "gluten-free"-ness of the new offering, noting that the sandwich uses a "gluten-free roll," is "prepared in a certified gluten-free environment," and sealed "in its own oven-safe parchment bag to avoid any cross-contamination." Sounds good, so far, perhaps even safe for celiacs.

    But then there's this little disclaimer at the bottom of the page saying that Starbucks "cannot guarantee that any of our products are free from allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, wheat and others) as we use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them."

    Wheat? This product may contain wheat? Wheat contains gluten. Things that contain wheat are not gluten-free, and usually cannot be labeled as such.

    So, what's the deal? Is the sandwich gluten-free or not? Is this a bit like when Pizza Hut offered a gluten-free pizza crust, but wouldn't guarantee a gluten-free pizza? How much wiggle room is built into Starbucks' disclaimer? The questions are basic ones. Is the product gluten-free? Is it safe for people with celiac disease, or not? If it is, then Starbucks has been unclear in declaring the suitability of their product for people with celiac disease.

    If not, then Starbucks has been equally unclear in declaring the unsuitability of their product for people with celiac disease. Also, if the company can't guarantee a gluten-free product, and won't recommend it for people with celiac disease, then who is this product for?

    The Starbucks website features lots of talk about the "gluten-free," aspects of the product, and the serving process, but there is no language stating that the sandwich, as served is "under 20ppm" gluten, which is the FDA standard for advertising package goods as "gluten-free." There is no claim that the product is safe for people with celiac disease.

    The Starbucks Gluten-free Breakfast Sandwich sounds very much like something that many people in the celiac disease community might welcome…IF it's actually gluten-free. Let's hope it is. Let's hope this was just a mix-up by Starbucks, perhaps the result of an over-zealous legal department.

    Otherwise, it would seem that, without more clarity, people with celiac disease could be confused or mislead by the claims, and maybe influenced by the ubiquitousness of Starbucks and their promotional campaign into trying something that might harm them.

    Celiac.com is reaching out to Starbucks for comment. We look forward to sharing their reply.

    Until it becomes clear that this product is actually gluten-free, and suitable for everyone, Celiac.com urges celiac sufferers to use caution, and to follow the story here for more updates.

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    Guest Jefferson Adams

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    I had one today and thought it was great. I am very sensitive celiac and had no problems. Very happy to have this option!

    Thanks for your comment! The early reports from people with celiac disease seem to be favorable. Starbucks seems to have worked hard to get it right. Their disclaimer is still a bit confusing, but it's good to hear that people seem to have no gluten problems so far.

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    I think the disclaimer is very clear, they are clearly stating that they are not a gluten-free environment as a STORE but provided the AWESOME details about how the product IS Gluten Free when handled as expected. I think it's good to provide information, but this article seems to incite more panic and upset than is necessary. A Certified gluten-free product is Certified Gluten free and if anything, all that is needed here is a pointer to the buyer to make sure they remind the person taking the order that the sandwich needs to stay in the bag it came in. This is overkill.

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    Thanks for the heads up on the tongs Stef. I have a gluten allergy so touching it will cause a reaction.rnI will ask them to use separate tongs or their hands when I buy one.

    It's still cooked in the same oven as the rest of the sandwiches. Our store uses separate tongs for gluten-free.

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    I know I'm late to the discussion, but I hope to help if there is any confusion for anyone else. I have worked at Starbucks for 9 years. I have two kids who both have Celiac (one of whom is also a Type 1 diabetic). I feel so bad all the time when they see all the food and drinks that they can't have (they are 6 and 8 years old). I have noticed the prepackaged snacks that Sbux partners with are becoming more Celiac friendly. As far as the gluten-free breakfast sandwich, the packaging states "certified gluten free" with the same label I see on foods that I buy specifically at the grocery store. The packaging is sealed, but it's cooked in the same oven as everything else there. Did I mention it's cooked in it's original paper packaging. I always use clean tongs when removing this sandwich so I don't get any other foods on the outside package. That way my kids' hands don't touch miscellaneous crumbs. But that's what I do because I'm aware of the problem. And you can always feel free to request the barista to do the same for you. So far neither one of my kids have had a reaction to this, and they love it. They can finally eat something that came from behind the counter at mommy' s work. As far as the allergen statement, I know they put that on everything. I am freely able to read ingredients lists and disclaimers on the product boxes too. But I feel confident the manufacturing of the gluten-free sandwich is gluten free. They have to say that because the warming of it takes place in a shared oven. Just make sure you inspect the seal of the bag, that it wasn't broken during warming (I've had some that did and I either made a new one, for my kids, or asked the customer if they are ok with the broken seal). If it was broken you can always request a new one to be warmed. Hope this helps everyone!

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    The sandwich is fine! If it were not for the litigious society we live in here in America, then places would not have to add such legal speak and disclaimers. I for one am happy that places are coming up with gluten-free options. We take a risk when we put anything in our mouths so do your research and get a Nima to test items if you are that concerned and we also. We'd to remember that there are other people that eat gluten-free for other health issues or desires besides those of us with celiac, we don't have the corner on that market.

    It's not quite that easy. My wife is very sensitive. She has eaten this sandwich twice. First time, no problem. Second time, major sickness. I have to suspect the tongs, which staff probably share between gluten-free and NonGF sandwiches. BE VERY CAREFUL.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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