Animals, Food Products & Recipes

Starbucks Finally Gets the Bugs Out!

The bug in question is the Cochineal Dactylopius coccus.  Its body and eggs gets ground up and processed to produce a red dye that’s used in many food products. The dye can be listed under several names such cochineal extract or carmine.

Needless to say cochineal, like all other insects, is not vegetarian ( nor does it meet the requirements of Jewish Kosher or Moslem Hallal). We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, always check the ingredients. Take nothing for granted. Most ingredients can be googled.

It turns out that Starbucks has been using the bug dye in several of its products including Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino blended beverage, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

While carmine is used in a wide variety of foods, and even as a coloring agent in many vitamin and nutritional supplements and even cosmetics, somehow we expected better from Starbucks. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones with higher expectations.

According to Starbucks, “As a company, we always strive to exceed our customers’ expectations and we take their feedback very seriously. Based on recent customer feedback, we learned that we fell short of these expectations by using cochineal extract.”

To remedy the situation Starbucks will transition over to using tomato derived Lycopene.  “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 U.S.”

In the meantime, our advice is to keep reading those labels on all the products you buy!


About Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians of Washington is a large non-profit vegetarian society based in Seattle, WA. We encourage people to discover the advantages and experience the pleasures of vegetarian food. We welcome everyone, whether you're an experienced vegetarian, a beginner or just curious. You don't have to be a vegetarian to join our organization, or to follow our blog! We run the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, Seattle's Vegfest, held in the Seattle Center in March each year. We also host monthly dining events and give free nutrition and cooking classes. We've written several nationally published books, including our latest book "In Pursuit of Great Food: A Plant-based shopping guide", which provides valuable information on what to buy and how to choose great food. Our other books include "Say No to Meat" which gives the information and real-world advice that new vegetarians need the most, in an easy question-and-answer style, the fact-filled "The Vegetarian Solution", and a wide range of delicious recipes in "The Veg-Feasting Cookbook". All our books are available in local bookstores, and via our website or


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