Saturday, March 31, 2012

Starbucks bugging Strawberry Frappuccino

Starbucks recently was in the news for all the wrong reasons. A vegetarian/vegan website reported that a barista at a Startbucks in midwest found Cochineal Extract in the ingredients of the strawberry sauce that is used to prepare the Strawberry Frappuccino. The site even has a picture of the packaging that clearly confirms this.

Cochineal extract comes from the dried bodies of female cochineal beetles found in Mexico and parts of South America. The extract and the resulting dye carmine (commercially know as Red 4) are commonly used in variety of products including foods, drinks and cosmetics. FDA approved the use of this long back but only recently ordered that food and cosmetics manufacturers who color their products with carmine and cochineal list them by name in the ingredient lists.

Although a natural additive, carmine can cause severe allergic reactions in some people as reported by University of Michigan allergist James L. Baldwin, M.D. The reactions can range from mild hives and itchy skin to dangerous anaphylaxis.

A petition at titled "Starbucks: Stop using bugs to color your strawberry flavored drinks" has been created and has already received 4500 signatures. The petition suggests Starbucks use other natural plant based alternatives like red beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato and paprika.

How about just using Strawberries to color the drink? As long as Starbucks uses cochineal extract its a goodbye from me to one of my favorite drink at Starbucks.

For all the people like me who would like to avoid eating bugs, beware of food products listing "carmine", "cochineal" or "confectioner's glaze" on labels. For the curious minds, other popular food products that I came across containing carmine/cochineal extract are:
Dannon Activia
PepsiCo Juices - Dole Plus Fruit Punch, Tropicana Fruit Medley Plus, Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice Drink, Tropicana Strawberry Orange Juice
Minute Maid Pink Grapefruit Cocktail, Minute Maid Light Kiwi Strawberry
SoBe Drinks - Energize Mango Melon, Smooth Orange Cream
SoBe Lifewater - Orange Tangerine, Pomegranate Cherry
SoBe Lifewater 0 Calorie - Acai Fruit Punch, Mango Melon, Yumberry Pomegranate

Update - 04/19/2012, Starbucks will stop using Cochineal extract instead replace it with a natural tomato based extract.