So what’s the problem? Well, upon closer inspection of the new and improved versions of the
Frappucino bases, a few things stand out as being rather odd. The first is that the new base is
described as containing flavouring but it’s not clear whether that flavouring is all natural
(and eventhen natural flavouring can be a misleading term in relation to its healthiness) and the second andarguably the most concerning, is the inclusion of xantham gum. A food additive designed to thicken
any substance it’s mixed with, it’
s produced through a fermentation process involving glucose,sucrose or lactose (glucose being one of the vilified offenders found in the original blend). At thispoint, you would be excused for thinking the new blend might just be a variation on a nutritionallydubious theme,
but there’s more to it than that.
Xantham Gum is derived from a wide range of common allergens including corn, wheat, soy and dairy.
It’s also considered to be a highly effective
laxative, even in small quantities and can readily cause intestinal bloating and diarrhoea.
The light version also sits uncomfortably with Mr Schultz’s vision of
a cleaner, greener Starbucks. Thetwo ingredients which transform a regular Frappuccino base into a light one have also attractedcontroversy in the past. Hitting the
radar in 1998,Carrageenan courted infamy for almost five years
when it’s potentially harmful
side effects wereconsidered in a medical review but the additive was later exonerated in a 2003 report by the JECFA.Maltodextrin on the other hand, continues to raise questions about its suitability for humanconsumption. Used to sweeten foodstuffs and a familiar face within the diabetic community, it is ano-go for celiacs, people who suffer from coeliac disease (a digestive disorder affecting around 3million people in the United States and a growing concern here in the UK) and causes the digestivesystem to relax which not only makes it lazy after a period of time but also tricks your body intocraving junk food, which requires less effort to digest. And if diabetics thought it was safe to drinkthe lighter Frappuccino, think again; despite the presence of Maltodextrin, sugar is still added to thedrink. The calorie content of both these wunderkinds also does not vary a great deal in relation totheir first generation counterparts. It is also not clear what the new coffee mixture, which is nowadded on top of the base rather than pre-mixed in with it, is made of but as it needs to betransported far and wide it is highly unlikely that the coffee is fresh, either.In fairness to Starbucks and to Mr Schultz, the above ingredients are used by companies all over theworld in the mass production of food and the second generation Frappuccinos are an effort to offera healthier alternative to their predecessors, yet the lack of transparency in relation to the
beverage’s contents, especially when considering the arguably controversial ingredients which may
have a direct impact
on the health of some of their customers, isn’t acceptable for a company that
prides itself on its corporate social responsibility.
Quite apart from the ethical issues, there is the issue of the taste of the drink itself. Whilst the newbase was tried and tested for two years in three states across America, before rolling it out (Austin,Tampa, and Dallas) the company did not seek to sample the concoction here in the UK (and perhapsother countries). And here in Britain, there has been an outcry. At this stage, I should probablyconfess that I am, or rather I was, a hardcore Frappuccino drinker
(it takes a ‘special’ type of person
to be able to drink said iced marvel in deepest midwinter) and whilst some people love their earlymorning espresso and others their tincture of tea, for people like me, a cryogenically coldFrappuccino in the morning was nothing short of a liquid opiate. So when the new base came and Iwas left with a bitter aftertaste (overpowered, nevertheless, by a devastatingly synthetic blandness),