Starbucks has announced it will no longer use cochineal extract in its Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino drinks and five other products, instead opting for a tomato-based ingredient called lycopene. Cochineal extract is made from dried and crushed beetles. GAH! It’s in more stuff than you think. If you’re a modern lady and you’re wearing some lipstick today, chances are you’ve got crushed beetles on your lips. I personally love the Birthday Cake Pops at Starbucks – on the off chance that I go in. Do they have crushed beetles? Survey says? Yes!
The FDA says the dye is perfectly safe and well, all natural. Food and cosmetic labels must state if cochineal extract is present. Cochineal extract is found in yogurts, candies, fruit drinks, ice creams, ketchup, the aforementioned lipsticks, eyeshadow, nail polish and other pink and red products. The extract, also known as “carmine” or “crimson lake,” has been used for thousands of years to dye fabrics by crushing up their dried bodies. Can’t be all bad then. So why the kerfuffle?
The whole thing came to a head when vegetarian and vegan news site thisdishisvegetarian.com got a tip from a Starbucks Barista that Strawberry and Creme Frappuccinos were not vegan products because they contained the bug-based dye. That led to a social media backlash as well as a petition on Change.org to remove the dye from the product.
Cliff Burrows, Starbucks’ U.S. president, on Thursday released the following statement on the company’s blog:
As I first shared on March 29, 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.
After a thorough, yet fastidious, evaluation, I am pleased to report that we are reformulating the affected products to assure the highest quality possible. Our expectation is to be fully transitioned to lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract, in the strawberry sauce (base) used in our Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino® blended beverage and Strawberry Banana Smoothie. Likewise, we are transitioning away from the use of cochineal extract in our food offerings which currently contain it (Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing, and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie).
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 an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz explained that the product change:
“No good deed goes undone. We tried to embrace an all-natural method for this product. In fact, we discovered that most women in America wearing red lipstick have this ingredient. It’s everywhere, it’s all-natural. We are examining it and probably will reformulate (the drink). … We’re looking at (alternative ingredients). We’re going to make the right decision.”