The night before last I read and article from This Dish is Veg that seemed surreal. As I read on, I had hoped that it was an April Fools prank, but it was not. Evidently, Starbucks has been using Cochineal Extract to color their Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino and Strawberry Smoothies. According to Veggieglobal.com, “Cochineal is made from the female insect found on cacti called Dactylopius Coccus. She is boiled alive or left to “cook” alive through sun exposure. Cochineal is the result of crushing scales of the insect into a red powder.” That doesn’t sound very refreshing to me. Amazingly enough, Cochineal is an FDA approved “natural” food coloring additive. The fact that Starbucks has been erroneously selling these drinks as vegetarian friendly (using soy milk) is so secondary to the fact that they are being prepared with cooked, ground bugs. It is like paying them five bucks to pretend you are a contestant on Fear Factor. Below is the article from This Dish is Veg in its entirety, along with a reply from a Starbucks spokesperson.
Remember when we were happy to report that Starbucks had unveiled a new vegan-friendly However-You-Want-It Frappuccino? Well we are very, very unhappy to now report that the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino as well as the Strawberry Smoothies (both made with soy milk) are NOT vegan.
A barista for the Seattle-based coffee company wrote to us:
“Hi! I’m a vegan who currently works as a barista at a Starbucks in the midwest, and I wanted to let you guys know that the Strawberries and Cream Frappucinos and Strawberry Smoothies at Starbucks are NOT vegan. The strawberry sauce we use contains “cochineal extract”. My guess would be that the recipe changed about three or four weeks ago, when our strawberry sauce got new packaging. I was hoping you guys could help get the word out there so that no veg*ns end up drinking this formerly vegan frappucino by mistake! Thanks.”
She also snapped a picture of the packaging:
For those wondering, cochineal extract is a red dye made out of dried female cochineal insects. And to put things in perspective, according to PETA it may take as many as 70,000 cochineal to produce 1 pound of the red dye.
So vegans, beware. It just goes to show, even if we get the thumbs up on supposed vegan products, it’s always good to double check packaging, if possible. You never know when something new will be slipped in.
What a shame.
We do have an email out to Starbucks for a comment on this issue but have yet to hear back.
UPDATE 3/16/12 5:30 p.m ET. We received word from Starbucks. According to a Starbucks spokesperson:
“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.
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.”
UPDATE 3/26/12 Sign the petition at Change.org. Starbucks: Stop using bugs to color your strawberry flavored drinksRed beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato and paprika 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.)
UPDATE 3/29/12 Interviews and Media
Ross & Burbank Show 97.3 KIRO FM (Interview with Daelyn Fortney)
The Situation Room CNN (Interview with Daelyn Fortney)
USA Today Bruce Horovitz (Interview with Daelyn Fortney)
KIRO 7 Chris Egert (Interview with Daelyn Fortney)
Minyanville Christopher Witrak (Interview with Daelyn Fortney)
CBS News HealthPop, Seattle Times, Boston.com, MSNBC, TIME, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times,Sydney Morning Herald, Atlanta Journal Constitution, WCVB Boston, WAVE 3, WAOW, KRDO, News Tribune, Vancouver Sun, Global Edmonton, WEWS, WHIO, Financial Post, Digital Journal, Jezebel, Z6 Mag, International Business Times,VegNews, CBS Seattle, Eater, CBS Detroit, Natural News, NPR
UPDATE 3/30/12 Due to customer concerns re: cochineal extract, Starbucks is “reviewing alternative natural ingredients.” Starbucks bugged by consumers, company will review use of cochineal extract
UPDATE 4/3/12 On CBS This Morning: “We are examining it and probably will reformulate (the drink),” said Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz. “We’re looking at (alternative ingredients). We’re going to make the right decision.”
Thank you Daelyn for the informative article and thank you anonymous Starbucks employee for caring enough about the human race to share this info.
Have a delicious day.