The genetically engineered hormone rBGH harms the health of dairy cows by increasing rates of udder infection in the name of increased milk production, threatens human health by increasing the levels of antibiotic residues in milk, thereby making it harder to treat human illness, and is linked to increased cancer rates. Despite these alarming harmful effects on human and animal health, Starbucks has broken its promise as outlined in a letter sent to OCA in 2001 to offer hormone free milk upon request in all company owned stores by 2002. Not much has happened since the 2001 public relations ploy to portray the $6 billion dollar coffee giant as a champion of "...business practices that produce social, environmental and economic benefits for Starbucks communities globally." Starbucks now supposedly offers rBGH-free organic milk and soymilk upon request (at 50 cents a cup extra), but does not publicize this fact to its customers, nor apparently even to many of its employees.
"Saturday's leafleting outside my neighborhood Starbucks revealed shockingly how out of touch Starbucks employees are with social and environmental responsibility as it concerns their own customers when they attempted to give thoughtful feedback," says Adam Eidinger, OCA's Washington Representative who witnessed numerous customers storm out of the 16th and U Street, NW Starbucks angered that letters they signed outside where immediately thrown in the trash by Starbucks staff when they attempted to give them to the manager. The leafleting happened all last week against rBGH and was part of an action in two dozen cities nationwide organized by the non-profit Food and Water Watch.
OCA is reactivating its members to campaign against Starbucks as there has been progress in recent years by other brands which are now 100% rBGH free. Starbucks is seen as a potential force for change as a huge buyer of milk products. The company, which reported profits of nearly $500 million last year, could greatly expand the market for rBGH- free milk by shifting their demand away from hormones.
Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of OCA says, "Starbucks could be a huge part of the solution by demanding rBGH- free milk from its suppliers. Yet, if you search Starbucks.com for 'hormones' or 'rBGH' they claim to be 'unable to locate the information.' Apparently no one at Starbucks has been reading the same information on rBGH that all 25 countries of the European Union, as well as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have been reading, since these countries have all banned rBGH. It's a bad joke that Starbucks claims to be committed to the environment when they sell this tainted milk."