Starbucks Not the Only Brand Using Crushed Bugs for ‘Natural’ Coloring


“One Venti half-caf skim yuckaccino…” Consumers are bugging out about Starbucks’ admission that the secret ingredient to the chain’s strawberry frappuccinos is insects. Yes, Starbucks has revealed that cochineal extract, essentially pulped insects, is the secret ingredient bringing the red hue to its strawberry frapp.

Hey, it could be worse. It could be aborted stem cells.[more]

Starbucks’ reasoning for using (naturally accruing) insect gruel dye is that it is healthier than artificial coloring. Starbucks’ statement said, in part, that the change “helps us move away from artificial dyes.” Sounds like a great substitute, right?

“Egghh… i just threw up a lil! …. shouldnt it be stated on the lable in big print that there are bugs in the food and drink so people know what there consuming!!!?!?” wrote one disgusted commenter on the Daily Mail story. His reaction was not atypical.

Use artificial coloring and run afoul of one group, use bugs and gross out another. You just can’t win.

But is this Starbugs-fretting just a tempest in a Trenta cup? As many have rushed to point out, cochineal extract has been used as reddish food coloring in consumer products for years, including those that go in the mouth — and on it. Red lipsticks, for example, are a common cochineal product.

Starbucks is not the only brand to avoid artificial coloring of late. Coca-Cola just tweaked its iconic soda formula to avoid having to make a “cancer” disclosure related to one of the artificial dyes it used.

Where Starbucks may be in trouble is with Jewish and vegetarian groups. Cochineal is not considered vegetarian or kosher. Indeed, the admission was triggered by questions about the whether or not the drink was vegan. In response, upset vegetarians have launched an online petition to convince Starbucks to instead use “Red beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato and paprika” which are “all-natural alternatives to artificial dyes and safe for those with dietary restrictions. (And those who don’t want crushed bugs in their designer drink.)”

But it could be worse. Pepsi recently found itself having to deny charges from pro-life grips that its artificial flavor tests were using “fetal cells from babies victimized by abortions.” And despite PepsiCo’s adamant denials of any such thing, groups like Children of God for Life continue to insist Pepsi is guilty. The group has issued a list of other suspected artificial flavoring fetal cell offenders, including Gatorade and Tropicana.