Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino Flavoring Contains Crushed Bug Extract, Can Causes Asthma, Allergic Reactions

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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | March 28, 2012 6:37 AM EST

The rosy pink hue in your Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino comes from a 'natural' dye that consists of crushed cochineal bugs, not delicious pieces of blended fruit.

Starbucks switched to using cochineal extract -- a red dye made out of ground up dried female cochineal insects -- in their Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino and Strawberry Smoothies in an effort to move away from artificial ingredients.

News about the switch up came from a Seattle based barista, who let thisdishisvegetarian.com, a news site for vegans and vegetarians, know about the change in Starbucks' strawberry sauce.

"The strawberry sauce we use contains 'cochineal extract,'" she wrote. "My guess would be that the recipe changed about three or four weeks ago, when our strawberry sauce got new packaging."

The tipster ended with "I was hoping you guys could help get the word out there so that no vegans end up drinking this formerly vegan frappucino [sic] by mistake! Thanks. :)" Starbucks responded with a statement of their own.

"At Starbucks, we strive to carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs. We also have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn't a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes," said the Starbucks spokesperson.

"Many Starbucks ingredients can be combined to create a beverage free from animal-derived products; however, we are unable to guarantee this due to the potential cross-contamination with other animal-derived products in our retail locations."

PETA states it takes 70, 000 cochineal insects to produce 1 pound of red dye. Cochineal bugs are primarily found in South America and Mexico. Also known by its nicknames 'carmine' or 'crimson lake,' the extract has been used as a textile dye since the 15th century.

The FDA considers cochineal extract is a safe dye to use in food and cosmetics, though a 2009 ruling said companies had to print the ingredient on their labels. It can be found in a variety of products such as jams, cheese, alcoholic drinks, meats, marinades, and cookies.

The World Health Organization found that cochineal extract can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals. Others may experience an allergic reaction.

A petition to stop use of the dye and use alternatives like red beets, purple sweet potatoes and paprika has started on Change.org.

It was started by co-founder and managing director of thisdishisvegetarian.com Daelyn Fortney. Entitled 'Starbucks: Stop using bugs to color your strawberry flavored drinks' the petition has already garnered 459 out of 500 signatures needed.   

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