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Featured Image Credit: Costa Coffee
Costa Coffee has apologised after giving customers 'dangerous' advice on social media.
The advice was shared on Twitter, after a parent tweeted the chain asking about gluten-free options for his coeliac daughter.
He explained how his teenager wanted to be able to enjoy a hot drink with her friends and not feel like the 'odd one out'.
But customers were shocked when the chain made an incorrect statement about allergens.
Costa's Twitter account responded to the man's tweet, claiming the steam arm on their coffee machines is "high [hot] enough to [sterilise] any allergen remaining and eliminate the prospect of cross-contamination risk".
Alarmed by the comment, gluten-free recipe book author Becky Excell, from Essex, tweeted on the thread, warning coeliacs not to listen to the 'misinformation' and emphasising that 'heat does not kill gluten'.
Costa deleted the tweets, but 31-year-old Becky, author of How to Make Anything Gluten Free and How to Bake Anything Gluten Free, says she's concerned over practices to avoid cross-contamination in the chain's stores.
The popular coffee chain have since apologised and said that the tweet does not reflect practices in store. They also emphasised that staff follow 'strict processes' to avoid cross-contamination.
"I follow Costa on Twitter and they'd announced that day that they were bringing out some gluten free products so I was looking on their page," said Becky.
"I saw a father had tweeted them asking for advice about things being gluten free at Costa because his daughter is coeliac.
"That's a situation where you want to get it right because it's a parent trying to understand if Costa is safe to eat at for his young child.
"Then I noticed their really awful response - they said 'heat kills gluten'. Heat does not kill gluten. You just think oh my god how can someone say that because it's 100 percent wrong.
"For all the people that have nut and other life-threatening allergies, I would be really worried now by what they're doing.
After the tweet was published, other customers also took to social media to tweet Costa.
One said: "What hope do we have when Costa Coffee are spouting this nonsense! If heat killed gluten, then all cooked food would be gluten free.
"Just one more reason why I won't set foot inside Costa anymore!"
Another added: "I do hope they do a post apologising for posting such dangerous and misleading information!"
Within hours, Costa began replying to individual tweets.
One response said: "We are taking this very matter very seriously and reiterating to our customer service colleagues the risk that is present in store and what our approach is in store regarding cross-contamination."
Becky has emailed the chain with a formal complaint, of which she received a longer response, again apologising for the misinformation and explaining that they deleted the tweet 'in order to try and prevent further confusion'.
The email said: "I want to reassure you that the posts do not reflect the approach taken in our stores to minimise the risks of cross-contamination.
"We know that there is always a risk of cross-contamination when preparing drinks in store, and our teams follow strict processes in order to minimise this risk.
"This includes the use of separate jugs and cloths when preparing any drink with a plant-based alternative."
Becky continued: "It angered a lot of people who have been coeliac for a long time but what really worries me is that there might be newly-diagnosed people reading that who are confused about it now.
"You would expect that a big brand like Costa would be giving out the correct information. The fact that they didn't properly address it and just deleted it is quite worrying because there are probably a lot of people who saw it that aren't sure now.
"Places like that seem to do that all the time, try and sweep it under the rug and think it will just go away but when it's to do with someone's health it shouldn't just go away.
"It would've been really nice if they just apologised openly to everyone and maybe referred people to Coeliac UK to get some information on it, but they chose to just hide."
A spokesperson for Costa Coffee said: “We take the safety and wellbeing of our customers extremely seriously and apologise for the incorrect information that was shared from our Twitter account.
"As soon as we were made aware of the error we apologised and shared a correct version of our in-store process to those who contacted us.
"We also removed the original tweet to avoid further confusion, following feedback from customers online.
"In our stores, to help reduce the risk to customers from cross-contamination, we have strict training and procedures in place.
"When a customer informs us about an allergy or dietary requirement our team members are happy to explain the measures we can take to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, so they can make an informed choice.
"This can include the use of additional equipment, such as separate jugs and cleaning cloths. Steam wands are also cleaned with the relevant cloths and purged after every drink preparation to reduce the risk of cross-contamination."