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!