Starbucks Coffee uses Beetle extract in their food coloring.
Hoax or Fact:
Fact but Outdated.
Circulating messages claim that the popular Coffee brand Starbucks uses Beetle extract in their food coloring. Yes, it is a fact, but the message is outdated now.
About the Issue
In March 2012, a vegan Starbucks barista leaked this news of Cochineal Beetle extract on thisdishisvegetarian.com, by providing a list of new ingredients used in the Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino and strawberry-flavored smoothies (both made with soy milk). These Starbucks products were shown to contain an animal (bug) extract – as a part of a red dye made out of dried, crushed, female Cochineal Beetles.
This news enraged some vegetarian groups then, who were all under the impression that the products, when ordered with soy milk, contained no animal products. Just two years prior to the disclosure, Starbucks launched the "However-You-Want-it Frappuccino" and confirmed that the drinks could be made vegan if made with soymilk.
About Cochineal Beetle
The Cochineal Beetle, formally called Dactylopius coccus is an insect that sucks the sap of prickly pear cactus and was used as a red dye for clothing by the early Mixtec Indians of pre-Hispanic Mexico. The insects were in fact carefully raised and farmed by these people.
Today, cochineal extract and carmine, which is the purer form of the dye, are widely used in various foods and cosmetics. According to the flavor-coloring company Wild Flavors, cochineal beetles extract is used in:
“Meat, sausages, and red marinades…. fruit preparations, jams, gelatin desserts, juice beverages, non-carbonated soft-drinks, baked goods, confections, icings, toppings and dairy products.”
The World Health Organization found that cochineal extract can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals, also triggering asthma in others. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that cochineal should be removed from foods because of this allergic-reaction issue. However, the Food and Drug Administration only requires companies to note cochineal extract or carmine among their ingredients, for the same reasons and of course, for the dietary reasons some people have.
Following this disclosure, Starbucks explained in a company statement that the new extract was part of their wider move to minimize the amount of artificial ingredients in its products. It also mentioned that it will review other alternatives. After much criticism, on 19 Apr 2012, Starbucks declared that it will no longer use cochineal extract, an insect-derived red coloring, in its wares.
In this way, Starbucks' Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino became bug-free later! The formula of the drinks was revised, removing the cochineal extract and replacing it with the natural tomato-based alternative, Lycopene.
To conclude, Starbucks coffee products no longer use the cochineal beetle extract in its food coloring. But as a matter of fact, it is still used in various other food and cosmetic products. So considering the aforementioned health concerns, their use must be strictly regulated.