StarbucksStrawberry Frappuccinos are a summertime favorite at Starbucks (SBUX). Too bad word's out that the lovely strawberry color is actually derived from "cochineal extract" -- dried, crushed bug carcasses. Talk about a buzzkill.

A Change.org petition has helped spread the word that cochineal extract poses a major problem for vegans, since consuming crushed bugs certainly doesn't adhere to the vegan diet.

Starbucks has owned up to the whole "Barista, there's a bug in my frappuccino" brouhaha, defending cochineal extract as a natural ingredient. According to Gannett News Service, Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said, "... the strawberry base for our Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino does contain cochineal extract, a common natural dye that is used in the food industry, and it helps us move away from artificial ingredients."

That's definitely not Red Dye No. 40, but it's not vegan, either. Even if they're not strict vegans, many consumers might find this coloring method just plain disgusting.

The Change.org petition beseeches Starbucks to consider other methods to color the drink without using artificial dyes, such as beets or paprika.

It's an Infestation!

Although Starbucks is taking the heat right now for using cochineal extract, the company is hardly the only one that uses the substance.

Cochineal extract is a popular dye for fabrics, and it can also be found in wine, lipstick, yogurt, candy, and all kinds of other popular products.

This latest alarm sounding about unappetizing ingredients in our foods follows hard on the heels of the uproar over ammonia-treated "pink slime" in hamburger patties. But that's more than an aesthetic issue: As unpleasant as the ammonia component is, it's not as bad the E. coli pathogen that the ammonia is meant to kill.

And whenever people start thinking seriously about vegetarianism (or keeping Kosher, for that matter), they began discovering that the most seemingly innocuous products might include meat by-products. For example, gelatin includes collagen from animal skin and bones. If you think saying "There's never room for Jell-O" is enough, think again: Gelatin is in all kinds of confections, like marshmallow Peeps and gummy bears.

Bigger Things Should Bug Us

Starbucks is fielding criticism for the cochineal extract, but this buggy buzz may indicate a bigger flap beyond fraps: Our food supply includes a lot of unsightly and unappetizing ingredients, even if they're not deemed harmful by the FDA.

Maybe the real point here is that it's good to increase awareness of some of the weird ingredients used in our foods and other products, and make more informed choices when we're out and about.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Starbucks as well as writing covered calls on Starbucks.



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14 Comments

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larry

I love starbucks! http://www.formvote.com/discuss.php?postid=435392707956173

August 27 2012 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SweetAssTea

... The fact that this dye is used does not make frappuccinos non-vegan. Vegans do not eat meat, nor eggs, nor milk from any being that has a face. So the truth is that frappuccinos have never been Vegan, as a main ingredient is dairy product.

April 19 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shrinking Violet

t doesn't sound bad to me, and it probably is much better for you than artificial dye. hate to break it to you, but people eat pounds of bugs every year in baked goods and vegetables, simply because bugs rule the earth, and we can't keep them out of food. i first heard about cochineal by reading the swiss family robinson. apparently they are worth their weight in gold; perhaps that's why starbucks is so pricey?

April 07 2012 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shrinking Violet

it doesn't sound bad to me, and it probably is much better for you than artificial dye. hate to break it to you, but people eat pounds of bugs every year in baked goods and vegetables, simply because bugs rule the earth, and we can't keep them out of food. i first heard about cochineal by reading the swiss family robinson. apparently they are worth their weight in gold; perhaps that's why starbucks is so pricey?

April 07 2012 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Liz Olson

So Starbucks has it's own version of pink slime: crushed beetles which give strawberry frappuccinos their color? I knew there were good reasons for going to Hi Hat!

April 03 2012 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ray

Hmmmm, I wonder what gives chocolate that brown color?

April 02 2012 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
High Altitudes

Anyone who pays $5 for a drink at Starbucks is too stupid to care anyway.

April 01 2012 at 3:39 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
ja602

Cochineal extract We have been using this for years It is safe and natural
In fact most women don't realize that a lot of make up and lipstick has Cochineal extract in the mix
At one time it was valued like gold Do a little research and you can find out a lot about this
I would think everyone would want this instead of a synthetic chemical coloring

April 01 2012 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Whoopass

I make smoothies all the time with strawberries and you don't need any coloring if you actually have strawberries in it! Sounds artificial to me.

March 31 2012 at 11:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Sirena

If it has strawberries then why put coloring in it? It's the taste we are after, not the color. Even strawberry ice-cream isn't pink. Unless it's a cheaper brand that has added coloring to it.

March 31 2012 at 5:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply