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Starbucks has responded to the announcement by a leading US kosher agency that it can no longer consider many of its items kosher.
A spokesperson for the company told The Jerusalem Post by email: “Starbucks worked with the Star-K program to test a kosher-friendly equipment rinse practices certification in seven stores in New York and New Jersey for two years. This was not a national test. At the conclusion of the test, we decided to sunset the program.”
Regarding Starbucks’ individual items and their kosher status, the spokesperson said – echoing the Star-K’s own views – that the company’s unflavored coffees are still considered kosher and that many of its packaged products have certification from other kosher agencies. “Unfortunately, our hand-crafted beverages and unpackaged food items cannot be considered kosher due to the fact they are not being prepared and served under the appropriate supervision,” the company said.
When asked why Starbucks chose to sunset the program at this time and if the company has any plans for reaching out to other kosher certifying agencies or to kosher-keeping consumers, the spokesperson said: “We do not have further information to share about [sic] this time.”
Last week, the Baltimore- based Star-K kosher certifying agency, which follows Orthodox standards of kosher, announced on its website that it can no longer recommend many of Starbucks drinks to kosher consumers, due to the coffee company’s decision to end a program run in conjunction with the Star-K.
“Please be advised that Starbucks Corporation has decided to end the expanded Star-K kosher information program… the Star-K can no longer vouch for the kashrut [kosher status] of items previously listed that do not bear a reliable kosher symbol,” the agency said on their website.
“This includes frappuccinos and all flavored drinks.”
The agency said that the “kosher-friendly store program,” which allowed the Star-K to further examine six stores in New York and New Jersey, has also been dropped, but their recommendations with regards to unflavored coffee have not changed.
No Starbucks stores have been formally certified by the Star-K or any other kosher agency.
“In 2011, Starbucks started serving hot non-kosher sandwiches, this created a question about some of the drinks even when all the ingredients were kosher since some stores were washing their equipment in a way that created a halacha [Jewish law] question… To assist the public, we developed a list of drinks that were made without cross contamination with questionable equipment,” said Rabbi Zvi Holland, a kosher administrator for the Star-K.
“In 2015, we were approached by Starbucks to expand the updated information we provide even further, to include drink items served in stores that were not labeled with a kosher symbol,” Holland wrote. “Working directly with the company we were able to expand the list of kosher items to include frappuccinos, mocha and caramel sauce, among other things... This program was accompanied by a pilot ‘kosher-friendly’ store program in six stores in NY and NJ, which resolved the above-mentioned cross contamination issues completely.
It is this final program that Starbucks has chosen to end.”
Speaking with the Post by phone, Holland said that the Star-K and Starbucks have a close relationship, but Starbucks chose to end the kosher-friendly store program for its own “internal reasons.”
During the program, he said, Star-K was able to vet some stores as “kosher-friendly” (because they avoided issues of cross-contamination between non-kosher items and equipment) and was able to provide an expanded list of items at Starbucks considered kosher, such as various frappuccinos.
Starbucks had approached the agency about the expansion.
A petition on Change.org calling for Starbucks to reinstate the partnership with the Star-K has over 8,000 virtual signatures.
“Please sign the petition to show that you care that it’s not kosher anymore and would like their certification to be reinstated,” the petition reads.
Holland said both he and “my partner at Starbucks” have been following the petition, and that he hopes Starbucks will reconsider its decision
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