A customer with severe allergies has called out her local Starbucks after she claimed a barista ignored her allergy requests, potentially putting her life at risk.
Mia, who says she has more than 50 allergies and goes by @theallergicgirl on TikTok, described the recent experience in a video which has since been viewed more than 100,000 times. In the three-minute clip, Mia said she was “debating” on making a video about her recent Starbucks trip, but decided to share her experience in an effort to call attention to the issues faced by people with severe food allergies.
She explained that she enjoys ordering from her two trusted Starbucks locations, which do a great deal at accommodating her allergy requests. However, Mia was in the Back Bay neighbourhood of Boston when she decided to take a chance on a different Starbucks location, considering the chain’s historical “great job” at accommodating her allergies.
When she ordered her drink at the counter, she told the worker about her severe food allergies and asked for her drink to be made in a “santised” shaker. For those who were unaware, Mia explained that a drink is considered sanitised if it’s made in a freshly-cleaned or unused shaker. This prevents her drink from being cross-contaminated with other ingredients like coconut or almond milk, which could send her to the hospital.
The person at the check-out counter was very understanding of Mia’s request, and added a label on the cup that her drink must be sanitised for the other baristas to see.
As she waited for her order in the pick-up area, she observed the barista behind the counter to make sure they properly sanitised her drink. She noticed the barista assigned to her order asked his co-worker what a sanitised request meant, and the fellow employee replied: “Do what you think is best.”
The barista proceeded to rinse out the Starbucks shaker with cold water, which Silverman pointed out is “not the same thing as sanitising”. When she was handed her drink order, she confronted the barista and asked whether it was properly sanitised, to which he said: “I did the best I could.”
“I tossed the drink in the trash because I was not going to risk my life for that,” she concluded the video, and asked the Boston Starbucks location to “do better.”
Mia Silverman began posting about her nearly 50 allergies on TikTok three years ago. Since then, she’s gained more than 87k followers from her videos on allergy awareness and education. Speaking to The Independent, Silverman said that she’s a self-proclaimed Starbucks lover and had never experienced a situation like this at any other chain before. When she realised that the barista didn’t know how to sanitise a drink, she thought the encounter would be a “good learning experience” for her TikTok followers.
“When this happened, I’ve never experienced this before,” she said. “It’s a good learning experience for not only me, but for the viewers and for hopefully like other baristas.”
There was also a part of her that hoped her video would grab the attention of Starbucks and “create a movement where companies can learn how to be accommodating people like me, people that are similar to me,” she said.
For Silverman, she uses her platform to highlight some of the daily struggles people with allergies go through, such as ordering at a restaurant or ordering a coffee. “Eating out is a huge risk on its own,” she said. “Even if they say that it’s safe, you can never fully guarantee. You can never fully trust unless you’re making the food yourself.”
Still, that doesn’t stop her from living her life to the fullest. In response to some of the negative comments on her video, which criticised Silverman for eating out despite her 50 allergies, she said, “I want to be able to also live my life too and have a good time and treat myself.”
The viral video prompted many Starbucks customers to rally behind Silverman, and urged the specific location take allergy requests more seriously. “I work in food service and food allergies do make things a little bit more complicated but it’s literally my job, and it’s not hard to pay attention,” one person commented.
“Always take orders seriously,” another user wrote. “They shouldn’t have to state their allergies, workers should just do the right thing. You never know.”
“As a barista running to the back to sanitise or get a new one takes literally 20 seconds,” one TikToker shared.
Another fellow barista wrote: “I literally have no issue doing this for customers. It quite literally takes like a minute to sanitise a shaker.”
Some users defended the Starbucks worker, while others clarified that the popular coffee chain cannot guarantee that there will be no cross-contamination with any of its other products.
“It sounds like the guy was just confused. If you saw him do it wrong, tell him exactly what you want,” one TikToker wrote.
“I work at Starbucks and we’re supposed to tell everyone that we can’t guarantee there’s no cross-contamination, they should’ve just told you that,” claimed another user.
“This is so wrong on Starbucks’ part but as an ex-barista we can never guarantee that anything is allergen free,” a third person shared. “Be safe”.
These days, Silverman will continue to use her platform to “normalise” and spread awareness about food allergies, and will work to reduce the “stigma” surrounding it. “I feel like there’s a lot of stigma around food allergies. People don’t understand how severe it can be and how it can affect you, like mentally, because it does take a huge toll on your mental health,” she said.
“I think I’m just trying to educate people on just the overall topic of allergies. How to be a good friend to someone that has food allergies, how to be more inclusive to someone with food allergies,” she added. “I guess I’m just trying to make the world a more inclusive place for people like me.”
The Independent has contacted Starbucks for comment.