What is Really in Your Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Make sure you remember what's in your latte next time you go to Starbucks.  Source: FoodBabe.com
Make sure you remember what’s in your latte next time you go to Starbucks.
Source: FoodBabe.com

As the leaves on the trees start slowly taking on a reddish hue, the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, many people are drawn to the warmth of cozy coffee shops and the steamy drinks they serve. One iconic drink that reemerges in the fall is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. However, this year you may want to think twice about indulging in this seasonal drink. Although delicious, the latte from Starbucks has many hidden ingredients concerning to your health.

Caramel Color Level IV is a commonly used coloring agent. A good three quarters of all Carmel Color Level IV is used in sodas and coffee drinks. How dangerous is the menacing-sounding “Class IV” coloring? Well, truth be told, not very. In tests with rats, “The highest dose level tested in the long-term studies (10 g/kg) was considered to be the no-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL).” (oxicity and carcinogenicity studies of Caramel Colour IV in F344 rats and B6C3F1 mice, by Hazleton Laboratories America, Inc.)

In addition to the food coloring, the titular Pumpkin Spice is present, as the name implies, in large amounts. While most popular in pumpkin pie, this magical orange-brown powder has found it way into almost everything; coffee drinks, ice cream, cookies, cupcakes, whipped cream and even hotdog buns. Pumpkin spice is actually a mixture of nutmeg, ginger and other delicious spices.  Cinnamon is often added to give a stronger flavor.

Now let’s address the question on all of our minds;  where’s the pumpkin?! This popular drink is actually completely void of any pumpkin at all! The drink relies on artificial flavors to complement the sweetness of the sugar, which is usually  up to 50g in a single drink. Allergic reactions to its artificial preservatives are fairly common. Sometimes indulging in this festive fall latte can result in hives, bloating, red skin and other symptoms.

Vegans, beware next time you’re in Starbucks. Remember that if you get a Pumkin Spice Latte, after your drink you will have already ingested 50g of sugar and large amounts of caramel coloring, and then bang. You’ve broken your vegan diet, courtesy of the condensed milk, (even though your ordered it with soy milk options), and you’re breaking out in hives thanks to an allergic reaction.

The infamous cochineal, the red ‘sauce’  has been removed from most starbucks drinks after some cover-ups and purposely vague declarations regarding its replacement with a vegetable extract. Their obscure responses to questions means that the much cheaper, albeit controversial, coloring might still be in many items such Raspberry scones, and pink cake-pops.  The red “sauce” is actually made from the juices an insect, Dactylopius coccus, releases when crushed.   However, if the idea of “bugjuice” in your smoothie drops your jaw in horror, consider yourself in good company- the infamous PETA sides with you, and most drinks, particularly the main offender, the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino has been bug-free for two years.

Starbucks can be a treat, but being knowledgeable about its ingredients and the calorie, sugar, and fat count will help you make informed decisions about whether or not their drinks coincide with your health values. Otherwise you could find that your caffeine fix causing you to weight or ingest chemicals and ingredients you wouldn’t want to otherwise.  And, of course, don’t consume too many ‘pumpkin’ spice lattes, which contain concerning amounts of sugar and no pumpkin at all. Although it can be tempting during the cold weather months, steering clear of Starbucks and their Pumpkin Spice Lattes may be your best bet.

-Jonathan Rose

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