Pumpkin Spice Latte: the good, the bad and the unhealthy

Starbucks pumpkin spice latte

Starbucks pumpkin spice latte

By Lois Kim 

When we think of autumn, crunchy leaves, Halloween, pumpkins, Thanksgiving and sweater weather come to mind. And now, thanks to social media and pop culture, we also think of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL).

With all the popularity around the drink, the PSL seems almost perfect, with its fall spices, foamy cream and pumpkin spice topping. However, Starbucks customers don’t see the truth behind the unhealthy ingredients the company uses.

For 11 years now, PSL has come and gone from the start of fall to around the end of the winter. Over the years, it has gained popularity, with over 200 million PSLs sold since 2003.

However, according to FoodBabe.com, a blog that investigates what is in our food, how it is grown, and the chemicals used in its production, Starbuck’s PSL contains a plethora of ingredients that are the opposite of the warm, fall taste it represents.

First of all, the PSL uses a  pumpkin syrup that contains condensed conventional milk. Therefore whether one orders soy milk or not, it is impossible to have a vegan PSL

Despite its name, the latte also does not contain any real pumpkin in it. Instead, it contains sugar, condensed nonfat milk, high fructose corn syrup, natural  and artificial flavors (that Starbucks refuses to reveal to the public), Carmel Color (class IV) and a variety of other chemicals.

But, the worst part is Starbucks’ use of Carmel Color Level IV. Carmel Color Level IV is the most commonly used food coloring in the world and is made in a laboratory with corn sugar, ammonia and sulfites, a combination that leads to a dangerous reaction that produces the byproduct 4-Mel. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that 4-Mel is a natural byproduct from cooking certain foods and is virtually impossible to get rid of, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the chemical as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” A U.S. government funded study also found that feeding Carmel Coloring IV (which contains 4-Mel) to mice increased their risk of developing lung cancer and leukemia. However, Starbucks has changed the ingredients they use to healthier options due to consumer demands.

But the PSL is not the only product Starbucks serves with health concerns. In fact, the company uses Carmel Color Level IV in most of its syrups and has a variety of other unhealthy components in its drinks.

Although Starbucks has ceased using milk from cows with growth hormones due to consumer complaints, the company still does not use organic milk. Starbucks also uses soy milk with Carrageenan, a stabilizer connected to harmful diseases such as cancer and intestinal inflammation.

Starbucks also does not serve organic coffee in most of its locations, although non-organic coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops on earth. Not to mention, many coffee beans Starbucks imports from developing nations that do not restrict certain pesticides that are actually banned in the US, due to health concerns.

However, most people don’t seem to care about the chemicals and questionable ingredients Starbucks uses. The drinks taste good, have a consistent taste in each store and are popular in modern society.

“Even though I’ve heard about the chemicals Starbucks uses in their drinks, I’d probably still get their products because I’m still addicted,” junior Katie Naberhaus said.

Unfortunately, there’s not much people can do to push Starbucks to use less chemicals and more organic goods. Therefore, if consumers continue to bring more awareness to the potentially dangerous ingredients Starbucks use and demand reform, there’s a chance Starbucks will continue to change for the better.

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