No, There’s No Need to Fear Your Pumpkin Spice Latte

Apparently the Food Babe is shocked that Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte doesn’t contain actual pumpkin. Crazy, I know, considering the name of the drink implies that the drink includes “pumpkin spice,” as in spices that traditionally accompany pumpkin, like those in pumpkin pie. And she also claims that the ingredients the latte does contain might kill you. So is it time to spurn your favorite fall drink?

Let’s break down what she’s so worried about:

  • Caramel Coloring: Food Babe claims caramel coloring, known as 4-MEI, is a carcinogen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other government regulators around the world disagree. FDA says: “FDA has no reason to believe that there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel coloring.” The European Food Safety Authority “concluded that they had no concerns about Europeans being exposed to 4-MEI from the use of caramel coloring in food.”
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Food Babe says she’s unclear as to whether Starbucks actually uses HFCS in its lattes, but even if it does consumers have no need to worry. HFCS isn’t much different than regular sugar from cane–as West Virginia University nutrition professor Cindy Fitch told the Washington Post, “Human studies, though short-term and small, consistently show no different impact on measures of health compared with other sugars.” HFCS is in thousands of food and beverage items you already eat and drink, so if this current coffee controversy from the Food Babe convinces you to nix it from your diet, prepare to dump a lot of food out of your fridge and pantry.
  • Milk from Cows Given rBGH: Food Babe has a real problem with foods made using genetically modified ingredients. She takes issue Starbucks’ use of milk from cows fed genetically modified feed and treated with rBGH, a hormone that encourages greater milk production. But all major health and regulatory bodies say that genetically modified foods are perfectly safe and there are no problems associated with milk from cows given rBGH. Read our analysis of GMOs here and rBGH here.

Essentially, Food Babe is spicing up social media with baseless concerns about a fall favorite. The worst part is even respected news outlets like USA Today are picking up the story, needlessly scaring consumers. If you’re actually shocked to discover that there aren’t chunks of pumpkin included in your latte, I suggest you avoid the drink. For those content to consume a beverage flavored with fall spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, feel free to order your drink without a side of hysteria.