The company’s Strawberries & Creme frappuccinos and Strawberry smoothies contain an ingredient that gives the drinks their crimson color. The color comes from cochineal that is a type of insect. The bug or parasite that is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico produces an acid that when mixed with aluminum or calcium salts makes a carmine or red dye. Cochineal is used as a food coloring or in cosmetics.
Cochineal has been used for hundreds of years, but what is new and disturbing to vegans is that Starbucks has added the ingredient to a few of their popular drinks.
Daelyn Fortney, a writer for ThisDishIsVegeterian is disturbed by the fact that Starbucks has not been forthright in letting customers know what the ingredients are in their drinks. “It’s not really an issue of ‘oh, gross, bugs.’ We are just letting people know that this drink isn’t vegan-friendly,” Fortney told KIRO TV.
Fortney has begun an online petition at Chance.org to get Starbucks to do away with their bug-colored dye and substitute it with one that a vegan would have no objections to ingesting.
The Seattle-based retailer had this to say about the brouhaha surrounding their use of cochineal:
“At Starbucks, we have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. The strawberry base for our Strawberries & Crème 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.”
As far as a substitute is concerned for cochineal, Starbucks is making no mention of one. Thus far though, the vegans behind the petition are recommending that the retailer use such natural color additives as beet extract, purple sweet potato, black carrot or paprika.