photo of a coffee cup on white tableBy Allie Bahn

If you are a coffee drinker and you have food allergies, a simple cup of joe can be complicated to navigate, whether you’re at home or your local café.

At Home

  • Buy coffee that is 100 percent Arabica beans – Check that there are no additional ingredients or flavors. If there is a concern with ingredients, check the company’s website FAQ page. Ingredients are often listed there along with information on how the ingredients were processed.
  • Keurig machine safety – Coffee machines that use pods can be a cross-contact concern due to other ingredients and the process of making the coffee. Before brewing your coffee, make sure no one else is using coffee pods that contain allergens.

At a Café

Most cafés now use multiple milk options along with flavors and syrups. There is a risk of cross contact from surfaces, spoons, heating wands, pitchers and stirrers.

These risks were always present for people with a dairy allergy, however as cafés increasingly use more milk alternatives, there is also now a cross contact risk for those with nut, wheat, coconut, rice or soy allergies.

How is that the case? Well, let’s say you enjoy drinking lattes. The steaming wand goes in a variety of different milks to heat them up. The wand that heated up your regular skim milk may also have heated up almond milk prior to your drink. If it wasn’t cleaned and sanitized properly in between, this poses an increased risk.

Here are some tips to navigate the coffee, food allergies and the café experience:

  • Look at the menu to see which milks are listed and be aware if you see one that contains your allergen.
  • Choose a drink that is less complicated to make (meaning it has fewer steps and less ingredients).
  • Tell the barista about your food allergies so they are aware and then observe the process to make sure you feel comfortable.
  • There is always the option to buy a cup of hot water and use instant coffee packets if you are concerned about cross contact in a café.
  • If you really want to add milk to your coffee, ask the barista if she can take it straight from the carton and ask to see the carton to double check the ingredients.
  • For children who may enjoy hot chocolate or tea bring a safe hot cocoa packet or a favorite tea. Finding hot water is much easier than finding safe hot chocolate.
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