When Starbucks changed its Frappuccino mix a couple years ago, it made sure the new ingredients were dairy-free. But no one said anything about being bug-free.
The website thisdishisvegetarian.com reports Starbucks’ Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino is not vegan, even if it contains soy after a barista alerted the site that the company’s new strawberry flavoring contains “cochineal extract” – which is essentially crushed up dried bugs used as a dye.
Cochineal extract comes from the dried bodies of cochineal bugs and has been used for thousands of years to color fabrics. The extract is also known as “carmine” or “crimson lake.”
“The strawberry base for our Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino does contain cochineal extract, a common natural dye that is used in the food industry, and it helps us move away from artificial ingredients,” said spokesman Jim Olson.
The base also is used in Starbucks’ strawberry smoothies, he said, and the insect-derived extract is in some other foods and drinks the chain sells, including its red velvet whoopie pies.
Starbucks is hardly the only one.
The report has prompted a petition on Change.org that calls on Starbucks to use other natural alternatives for food coloring, including red beets, purple sweet potatoes, and paprika.
The news has also prompted some to point out that a whole lot of our food already contains cochineal extract – and has for quite some time. The FDA says the dye is safe and food and cosmetic labels must state if cochineal extract is present. That means it may be found in wines, yogurts, candies, fruit drinks, ice creams, ketchup, lipsticks, eyeshadow, nail polish – you name it.