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Starbucks to drop beetle juice from the menu

The coffee giant says it's ditching the red dye made from crushed beetles used to add a rosy hue to some of its products.

April 19, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times
  • A Starbucks barista prepares to serve sample-sized coffee cups before the company's March shareholders meeting in Seattle.
A Starbucks barista prepares to serve sample-sized coffee cups before… (Elaine Thompson, Associated…)

Strawberries & Creme Frappuchinos at Starbucks Corp.will no longer feature a splash of bug — the coffee giant is ditching the red dye made from crushed beetles.

The tropical, cochineal insects were dried and then processed into a coloring product to give that rosy hue to the Frappuchinos, as well as strawberry banana smoothies, raspberry swirl cakes, birthday cake pops, mini doughnuts with pink icing and red velvet whoopee pie.

The insects, often found in a woolly-looking mass that covers prickly pear cactuses in Latin America, are also commonly used to color fabrics and cosmetics. But the pigment they produce is not vegan. It's not kosher. It's also just kind of gross, according to the more than 6,500 Starbucks customers who decided they weren't adventurous enough to stomach the ingredient and signed a Change.org petition decrying the practice.

By the end of June, so-called carmine dye, which experts say can require as many as 70,000 bugs per pound, will be no more at Starbucks. The Seattle company will replace it with a tomato extract called lycopene.

The beetle juice blowup began last month, when an anonymous vegan Starbucks barista emailed the This Dish Is Vegetarian website to disclose that the strawberry sauce used for certain soy drinks contained the bug extract.

"As our customers you expect and deserve better — and we promise to do better," Starbucks' U.S. President Cliff Burrows wrote in a blog post Thursday.

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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