Starbucks' latest ingredient -- bugs -- irks vegans

by: Chris Egert, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News Updated:

Strawberries and Crème Frappuccinos, as well as the Strawberry Smoothies made by Starbucks now contain cochineal (Koch - uh – kneel), which is ground-up bugs used to dye things red.

SEATTLE - Starbucks is taking heat for an ingredient used in some of its drinks: bugs.

Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos, as well as the Strawberry Smoothies made by Starbucks, now contain cochineal (Koch - uh – kneel), which is ground-up bugs used to dye things red.

“Crushed-up what?” Stacy Hsu of Seattle asked.

Crushed-up bugs.

“OK, what kind of bug is it?” she said.

Cochineal is nothing new, and has in fact been used for hundreds of years.

But what is new, according to Daelyn Fortney, a writer for thisdishisvegeterian.com, is Starbucks using the bugs in their strawberry drinks, which a few years ago were getting rave reviews by the vegan community because Starbucks offered a soy version.

“It’s not really an issue of, ‘Oh, gross, bugs.’ We are just letting people know that this drink isn’t vegan friendly,” Fortney said.

Fortney has started an online petition at change.org to get Starbucks to use something vegan-friendly to color the drinks.

Starbucks issued a statement, saying:

“At Starbucks, we have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. The strawberry base for our Strawberries & Crème 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.”

The company didn’t clarify if it would consider using something else to color the drinks, now that so many vegans have become aware of the cochineal extract.

The vegans behind the petition have suggested Starbucks use other natural ingredients to color the drinks, like beet extract, purple sweet potato, black carrot or paprika.