SafeFood: Strawless in Seattle, and Elsewhere

If you have had a take away beverage in the last month or so, you may have noticed the lack of a straw. Some food chains such as A&W and Starbucks (which started in Seattle) are no longer providing these with the beverages served, citing environmental concerns. Yes, the plastic straw has joined the hall of fame as an ecological villain. Some of the internet data notes the US uses 500 million straws each day (apparently enough to circle around the Earth 2 ½ times!  The limited number of paper straw manufacturers are giddy with increases in orders – they cannot keep up with the demand. Paper straws are just one alternative to plastic straws. Starbucks released a new type of beverage lid that apparently replaces the need for a straw. This might work for some of their customers but not all. For individuals with limited arm mobility, a sturdy straw is vital; paper straws just cannot provide the support needed. Yes, I get there is a lot of garbage out there and we should limit what we can. I get the distinction between biodegradable materials and those that are not. I get not all recycled items actually get sorted correctly, and that transportation issues may mean they end up floating on a barge at sea indefinitely. Still, a widespread ban does not make sense. From a food safety perspective, I like having a straw as opposed to drinking from side of a glass with unknowns of who and how it has been cleaned and handled. The straw does gives me a sense of security. However false that sense of security is, perceptions do make a difference. I’ll still ask for the straw!



Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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