Starbucks ends business with flavor maker after safety issues revealed

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In response to concerns about worker safety at Sensient Flavors, Starbucks has ceased business with the Indianapolis flavor maker and Campbell Soup has launched an investigation into health and safety conditions at the factory.

Starbucks and Campbell Soup, both of which purchase ingredients from Sensient, are taking those actions after an Aug. 19 story in The Indianapolis Star documented a variety of health and safety concerns at the factory.

“We are aware of the workplace safety allegations related to Sensient Flavors’ Indianapolis facility and take them very seriously,” Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said. “We have decided to cease future business with Sensient Flavors while we examine whether the company is operating at the high ethical standards we expect of all of our suppliers, including providing safe and healthy working conditions for all employees.”

Campbell Soup also expressed concerns.

“We take this very seriously,” said Anthony Sanzio, a spokesman for the New Jersey-based food and beverage company. “It is something we are currently investigating. We have talked to Sensient, and we are going to do our own investigation, continue to discuss this with them and take appropriate actions.”

Neither company would say exactly what their investigations would involve, but companies sometimes require third-party safety audits from their suppliers if there are doubts about worker safety.

In the past, Sensient has provided flavorings for soup and V8 Splash to Campbell Soup and for tea and Pomegranate Frappuccino to Starbucks. Sanzio said Sensient was not a “key” or “strategic” supplier for Campbell Soup, and Hutson said Sensient accounts for “significantly less than 1 percent” of Starbucks’ food and beverage supplier costs.

No one has suggested there are any concerns related to Sensient’s flavors for consumer food products.

The Sensient customers were responding to The Star’s report on two rounds of worker safety orders issued in recent months against Sensient by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to those orders, employees at the plant were exposed to more than 400 times the generally recognized safe level for diacetyl, a chemical used in butter flavorings and associated with a life-threatening lung condition. Sensient also exposed workers to other hazardous chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide and acetic acid, provided insufficient training and safety equipment, and improperly labeled flammables, according to the safety orders.

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