Yes, you can have that now, but only since Starbucks was prompted by thousands of namely vegetarian protesters who were appalled after discovering the coffee giant was using bug-based dyes in some of their drink and food products.
The bug in question is a tiny white insect called a Dactylopius coccus, which when crushed, produces a brilliant red dye known as cochineal. And although this suspicious substance has only become public knowledge recently, it’s apparently been used for coloring foods and makeup for centuries.
Starbucks wasn’t breaking any laws, just vegetarian hearts, who were unknowingly consuming the bug. But cochineal is approved by the FDA and is all natural. Still, some were especially concerned since the dye has been shown to cause allergies and asthma with severe reactions in some instances.
The news leaked when a Starbucks barista reportedly sent a picture of the ingredient label for their Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino to the website ThisDishIsVegetarian.com, which then reported the chain’s use of the bug.
Shortly after the news broke a few weeks back, people were livid and reportedly sent thousands of emails in protest to the company’s headquarters. And? It worked. At the time, Starbucks President (in America), Cliff Burrows, wrote on the corporate blog, “While it is a safe product that poses no health risk, we are reviewing alternative natural ingredients.”
Just weeks later, the company made up their mind and opted to pull the bug-based dye from their products. Burrows announced again on the blog that Starbucks would be coloring their beverage and food products with a well-known vegetable extract instead.
“Our expectation is to be fully transitioned to lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract, in the strawberry sauce (base) used in our Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino blended beverage and Strawberry Banana Smoothie,” he said.
And the coffee giant also promises to phase cochineal out of their popular pastries, like the Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie, by late June.
Burrows says the company’s commitment to their customers is to ‘serve the highest quality products available, that they should expect and deserve better, and that the company promises to do better.’
Vegetarians and vegans are surely rejoicing over the news, including myself. Although I’m not 100% one or the other, I like to know what’s in my food and don’t want it to be bugs. I would expect large chains like Starbucks to be transparent on these types of issues, and was happy to hear the company followed through and gave their customers what they wanted. Sounds like I’ll be having that whoopie pie after all.
April 20th, 2012