Starbucks enraged vegetarians this week after confirming that its strawberry flavored drinks contain a new ingredient of cochineal extract -- a red dye made out of crushed cochineal beetles.
A vegan Starbucks barista first leaked the news on thisdishisvegetarian.com by providing a list of new ingredients used in the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino and strawberry-flavored smoothies.
Two years ago the company launched the "However-You-Want-it Frappuccino" and confirmed the drinks could be made vegan if made with soymilk.
Starbucks explained in a company statement that the new extract is part of a wider move to minimize the amount of artificial ingredients in its products. Though it can create a vegan ingredient drink, it can't guarantee a completely pure drink thanks to cross-contamination of animal-derived products at stores. The company's complete statement reads in full:
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.
Cochineal is nothing new. Deemed safe by the FDA, the extract is an additive found in a number of food and cosmetic products. The World Health Organization, however, found that cochineal extract can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals, while asthma may be triggered in others.
Co-founder and managing director of thisdishisvegetarian.com Daelyn Fortney took to Change.org to start a petition to stop use of the dye in the drinks.
With 717 out of 1,000 signatures so far, the campaign is under way to get Starbucks to opt for other natural alternatives.