July 23, 2012

Kashrus Administrator Keeps Tabs on Kosher Status of Starbucks

CHICAGO -- Rabbi Sholem Fishbane is the Rabbinic Administrator for the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc) and certainly expert on all kashrus concerns, even such intricate issues like the kashrus status of Starbucks. He was recently quoted as part of an article in the New York Times about the kosher status of Starbucks. Rabbi Fishbane said that his extensive research into Starbucks was prompted by the large number of consumer inquiries about Starbucks. 

Rabbi Fishbane spent more than 2 years researching Starbucks all over the world (even going as far as Japan) before he produced his definitive 2011 document, “Guide to Starbucks Beverages” (which is available in full on the cRc website, www.crcweb.org). Fishbane found that Starbucks restaurants use dishwashers that may be problematic. 

Unlike most places that sell coffee, which use a 3-compartment sink to wash their dishes, Starbucks takes it a step further and adds a cleaning cycle. All dishes- from a pot used to cook a ham and cheese sandwich to a spoon used to scoop up coffee beans- are placed in a dishwasher and cleaned at 180 degrees, hot enough for the various kitchenware to “absorb” the meat. This can result in a regular black coffee being non-kosher even with no inherently treif ingredients. That is why buying coffee at a Starbucks kiosk, which does not use a dishwasher at the end of the cleaning cycle, is far less problematic (though still sometimes an issue) than buying coffee at a regular Starbucks store, which does use a dishwasher.

Another issue that many kosher consumers face is whether a Starbucks Frappuccino contains non-kosher ingredients. According to Rabbi Fishbane, the main ingredient of a Frappuccino is its base, which is manufactured overseas using a confidential recipe. The base is known to contain monodyglicerides, an ingredient manufactured from either animal fats or vegetable fats. Since there is no way to ensure that the animal fat version is never used, the cRc is unable to give kosher consumers the green light to drink Frappuccinos.