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No, Starbucks Juice Drinks Aren't Full of Poison

It’s 2017, so even your juice can be tainted by fake news.

Late last month, a rumour began to spread online that Evolution Fresh—a cold-pressed juice and smoothie brand owned by Starbucks since 2011—was selling products to unsuspecting Americans that are "poison" and produced in Nigeria. A cursory search on Facebook will find dozens of instances in which posters refer to Evolution Fresh as Nigerian "poison" and urge others not to purchase any Evolution Fresh products.

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The thing is, there hasn't been a single verifiable instance in which someone was found to be poisoned by an Evolution Fresh product. As pointed out in a recent report by Snopes, Evolution Fresh does not appear once in the FDA's food recall database.

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While it's unclear how the rumour began to circulate, Snopes points to a 2013 news story as a possible culprit. Back then, it was reported that Ramineh Behbehanian, a 50-year-old trained chemist, put a "lethal quantity" of rubbing alcohol into bottles of Evolution Fresh orange juice that she then tried to sneak into the display case of a San Jose, California Starbucks. Behbehanian was initially charged with attempted murder, but the charges were dropped when a secondary lab test revealed the bottles contained vinegar, not rubbing alcohol.

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As for the juices being made in Nigeria, according to Evolution Fresh's website, "Most of the produce used for our juice is grown in Southern California, where we get leafy greens, crunchy root vegetables and tangy-sweet citrus based on seasonal growing patterns—from farms in Salinas down to the southern Imperial Valley in both California and Arizona." Additionally, the brand also claims that "93 percent of our fresh produce is from the western US" and that "82 percent of it is grown within 400 miles of our juicery."

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Now, if you aren't so willing to just take the information the brand puts out on its own website at face value, consider the fact that under the USDA's country of origin labeling regulation (COOL), many food retailers are required to label certain foods with their country of origin. Additionally, many processed foods that don't fall under COOL guidelines are subject to the Tariff Act of 1930, which "requires that imported products state on the label the English name of the country of origin." And yes, both fruits and vegetables—fresh and frozen—fall under the purview of COOL.


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Given all that, it seems unnecessary to even point out that there are plenty of regulations on what foods are allowed to be imported to the US or that imported foods are subject to FDA inspection. Hell, Nigeria isn't even on the 2017 USDA list of countries currently eligible to export food products to the US.

MUNCHIES reached out to Starbucks for comment, but has yet to hear back.

It's 2017, so even your juice can be tainted by fake news. Caveat lector, friends.