I’m picking on Starbucks here because I know they are guilty but this applies to many coffee shops.
Those of us with dairy allergies who cannot drink cow’s milk have a huge choice of plant milks available to us including rice, oat, coconut, hemp, almond, cashew, soya etc. Quite a lot of choice, and most coffee shops with have some plant milk alternatives, though sadly most only have soya…
I have a dairy, nut and soya allergy so I alternate between rice, oat, coconut, hemp and others!
But have you watched them making your dairy free coffee? That frothing nozzle that they use is wiped down with a wet milky rag. Is it even cleaned between customers?
I have never heard a barista ask whether the customer’s choice of plant milk is due to a life threatening allergy.
Yet this is exactly what they should be asking.
So when you ask for a soya latte, is it just a soya latte is or there just a little trace of milk in there?
For me and many others with a life threatening dairy allergy, one that could cause a very serious allergic reaction, this is something you need to take seriously.
This might be OK for many and for a vegan, they wouldn’t notice the difference, but for many of us this is NOT safe.
It can be done though. If you have a dedicated frother – and you don’t need a huge kitchen or cafe to do this.
Check out Guy, my favourite barista, pictured here at Amici’s Cafe. It’s a small local caff near where I work and has one (on the left) for cow’s milk and one (on the right) for plant milks…
I still don’t risk it.
I always opt to black coffee because I actually really like it without any milk at all. I’ve got used to it, and due to the severity of my allergies, it’s safer.
Guy says he trains his staff to use the right one if a customer asks for dairy free, but in a busy cafe mistakes could happen. He advised that anyone with a very serious allergy should make sure staff are aware how bad a reaction could be so that his staff are reminded and can take extra precautions to keep you safe.
Don’t take chances with your health.
Stay safe. If a cafe is busy and you feel at all worried, ask for a black tea or coffee and stay safe.
Please listen Starbucks
To Starbucks, Pret, Costa and every other cafe out there, please check your training and processes and make sure your staff are aware that mistakes can cost lives.
I don’t want to hear about any more accidents in cafes or restaurants, and this has been bugging me now for weeks since my friend @CharlieLondonVegan from Instagram phoned me to check I was aware because she felt this could pose significant danger for allergic customers. Charlie is vegan so it wouldn’t affect her, but as she watched the barista in her local Starbucks cafe making her vegan latte she realised that they used the same part of the coffee machine without cleaning from one customer to the next. That’s not right.
If you have a dairy allergy you may also be interested in another blog I’ve written about “Airborne milk protein in cafes”.
I hope by sharing this I can help keep dairy and cow’s milk allergic customers safe. Don’t take risks please.
Stay safe. Have you had an allergic reaction from a hot drink in a cafe? I know I have. From a stirrer that was just dunked into a jug of water. Not cleaned, not safe, and only carrying a tiny trace of dairy probably but enough to give me an asthma attack and cut short my trip to London. An aborted mission and a lesson to me in being more careful, watching like a hawk and making sure staff know how allergic I am. I am sure they think I’m mad…
“Black coffee please, no milk. Please put the lid on and don’t stir it.” says the mad crazy allergy lady!
Keep me safe! If you work in a cafe, please consider all your customers and ask them if you’re unsure, how careful do you need to be?
It’s time to ask questions.
Make sure you understand the risks and take precautions whether staff or customer. We will make this world a safer place.
Have you ever considered making a short vlog or film for companies to use as part of their staff training? We have to do a lot of online training now and many modules include short video s and/ or several case studies with a short quiz at the end for staff to complete. I wonder if there are any of these around for catering businesses.
Ruth Holroyd says
You know that’s a brilliant idea! I’ve just started doing a few videos so I might start experimenting with that. A future in film? The future beckons. I am on a bit of a soapbox wherever I go now…
daryl jackson says
it is so unfortunate how some owners as well as their staff are so negligent when it come to safe guarding their patrons against accidental cross contamination. I think there is many reason why but it is obvious that some thing else has to be done.. since we can not leave it up to these establishments to police themselves.
Ruth Holroyd says
I agree Daryl, if someone asks for soya a latte it may just be that they prefer it to cow’s milk, but if someone is allergic the current situation is far from safe. So I urge everyone with serious allergies to star safe, buy black tea or coffee, or as in the places I trust, remind them of my allergies and go for something safe like just having oat milk in your coffee but not having a latte. Your life is more important than your love of lattes people. While things are not safe we can’t trust anyone, we have to take the responsibility to check, educate and watch to make sure things are done safely.
It’s not just big companies like Starbucks, Costa etc. It is every cafe around. Even supermarkets like Sainsburys. I often have a coffee in Sainsburys and I know they mean well and wipe the nozzle but I’ve often thought if my allergy were that severe I wouldn’t drink out, I’d take my own. Safer. Same with sandwiches. Different for areas where you aren’t allowed to take own drinks, like planes etc. Then they should definitely be trained to an exceptional standard.
Ruth Holroyd says
I just can’t trust them. My dairy allergy is very severe so I don’t take any risks in coffee shops but I still love meeting friends for a cuppa. I even react to air borne milk vapour so I’m often seen outside in winter wrapped in blankets, of I find a seat far from the coffee machine. Summer is a better time for me in this respect, when you can sit outside without hat, scarf and gloves. And I always go for black coffee, green tea or redbush tea. No milk. Safe!
Elle U says
I’ve been given dairy lattes twice at my local Costa despite asking for soya. I only realised after I tasted it and, luckily, I’m not allergic; however my children are, so I stressed to the staff how dangerous it could potentially have been after the first time but then it happened again! Allergies have not been taken seriously enough up until now and, sadly, it has taken the death of Natasha (or, rather, the adverse publicity in the case of Pret) to make companies finally start to pay attention.
Ruth Holroyd says
Crikey, they actually gave you the wrong one? Terrifying. anyone with a dairy allergy should definitely be buying lattes in coffee shops. not safe! Thanks for sharing.
Elizabeth Hine says
I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve written to coffee shops saying how awful it is to see a cloth used to wipe the coffee machine and then the spout that goes into my cup to steam my milk. I’ve written to the shop in Tesco, Aylesbury, twice. I get a sorry letter, but nothing changes. Also watched a barista put his fingers inside my cup to move it into place after handling cash, but that was in the US. I have no allergies, and I’m not too fussy, so don’t worry too much – but I have a friend who does.
Ruth Holroyd says
EWWWW now you put it like that Liz it is rather disgusting. Would you have a rag at home and use it to wipe everything clean all day long? Especially smelly things like milk. Gross… can’t be hygienic or safe…
I have wondered about this. I don’t have an anaphylactic allergy, just a mild(?) intolerance to milk proteins (whey, casein), so I have just turned a blind eye, but I can’t believe it hasn’t become more of an issue, sooner, especially with the recent deaths from dairy-contaminated coconut milk yogurt at Pret and similar.
I agree with the earlier commenter that you should consider doing some video vlogs!