Did you know that the scarlet dye used chiefly for food coloring may be derived from crushed beetles? Yes, that’s right!!
The dried bodies of cochineal insects, tropical bugs found in Mexico and South America are crushed to yield a coloring product that gives a reddish or dark orange tint to certain beverages and food items.
Starbucks drops cochineal extract
Starbucks Corp, the chain of coffee shops is scraping the use of food coloring made from crushed bugs in its drinks and food products.
The Seattle-based company used the natural cochineal extract in four food and two beverages offered in US.
These included the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.
Starbucks announced on its website that they will swap the colorant with lycopene, a tomato extract by the end of June. The change will be initially for the domestic market but the company will also evaluate the outside markets.
Cliff Burrows, Starbucks president for the U.S. and the Americas, said in the statement posted on the company’s blog, "After a thorough, yet fastidious, evaluation, I am pleased to report that we are reformulating the affected products to assure the highest quality possible.
“This transition will occur over time as we finalize revisions and manage production. Our intention is to be fully transitioned from existing product inventories to revised food and beverage offerings near the end of June across the US.”
Bow to public pressure
The decision to reconsider the use of the natural colorant came after the vegan and vegetarian website thisdishisvegetarian.com reported that the strawberry sauce used for certain drinks at Starbucks contained the bug extract.
Following the backlash, the managing director of the site, Daelyn Fortney started an online petition drive on Change.org.
Nearly 6,692 people signed the petition to stop Starbucks from using the bug extract.
Though the widely used ingredient poses no health risk and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the coffee chain announced the transition because of public pressure.
Burrows wrote on the blog, "As a company, we always strive to exceed your expectations, and we take your feedback very seriously. We’ve learned that we fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant in four food and two beverage offerings in the United States.
“Our commitment to you, our customers, is to serve the highest quality products available. As our customers, you expect and deserve better—and we promise to do better."