Today I had one of those rage-inducing encounters that I’m sure most coeliacs and gluten-free dieters experience once in a while.
This exchange took place in a Starbucks in London.
Me: Hi, do you know if any of the hot chocolates are gluten-free?
Starbucks Lady: Gluten…free?
Me: Erm, Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats and rye; it might be present in some of the powders and syrups- perhaps you have an allergy checklist I could take a look at?
Starbucks Lady: Ahhh I don’t think they are gluten-free. They all have milk in them.
Me: I asked about gluten, not milk?
Starbucks Lady: Maybe you have the coffee with soy milk.
Me: I don’t need soy milk, I just need to know about gluten.
Starbucks Lady: The gluten is in the milk.
Me: [losing patience] Gluten and dairy are different things – could I just take a look at the ingredients?
Starbucks Lady: Maybe you can have the americano.
Me: I just want to know about the hot chocolates.
Starbucks Lady: But they all have milk??
Me: I’M NOT ALLERGIC TO DAIRY!
Me: Look, I think we have a misunderstanding, could I please just have a look at the allergen list for the hot drinks.
She handed me the list for the foods. Said that one for the drinks did not exist.
I do appreciate that not everyone has a detailed knowledge of gluten-free matters. Not everyone needs to. But I really think that people who work with food should be taught about food allergies and intolerances, and potentially harmful ingredients. I was surprised that in a massive chain like Starbucks – a company which actually has developed and sells specialist gluten-free items – that the member of staff had not been trained even to know what gluten was.
I never did find out whether the hot chocolates are GF…answers on a postcard?