Which would you rather drink: chemical coloring, beet juice, or dead bugs?
Apparently, Starbucks thought you'd pick that last option.
In an effort to remove artificial ingredients from its menu, Starbucks recently replaced the food dye in its Strawberry Frappuccinos with a "natural" substitute: beetle juice.
The stuff is actually called "carmine," and it's what you get when you take red cochineal beetles, dry them out, and pulverize them. Carmine is used in a lot of everyday products, including yogurts, juices, cosmetics, and meats (to give brown aging beef a "fresh" bloody look, for example).
Until a little over a year ago, we didn't even know what foods contained the beetle dust. The FDA passed a law in January of last year mandating that food companies stop using blanket terms like "color added," or "natural and artificial colors" to mask the fact that they contained carmine.
News of Starbucks' switcheroo reportedly got out when a concerned barista noticed the change in ingredients and started spreading the word to warn her unsuspecting Frappuccino-slurping vegan friends.
Of course ethical vegans are unhappy about Starbucks' decision to swap chemicals for bug dust. PETA has actually plugged Starbucks in the past for having food and beverage options that are suitable for vegans on the go. I doubt their response to the swap will be congratulatory, especially since it takes 70,000 crushed female cochineal beetles to produce just one pound of the dye, according to PETA's website.
Rae Indigo, Miami vegan and director at the American Nutrition Institute, was less than enthused to hear about Starbucks' decision-making.
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"It is unfortunate that Starbucks chose to use beetles for coloring, and unusual for them to misread the public appetite for insects," she said. "I expect a bit more integrity from an industry leader."
I personally give props to Starbucks for trying to get rid of artificial additives, but what I don't get is why the company would take such a misguided approach - swapping one evil for another. Why would they overlook cruelty-free (and creepy crawly-free) options like black carrot, purple sweet potato, paprika, or of course, my namesake, beet? To make matters worse, ABC News reported that the World Health Organization found carmine to cause asthma and allergic reactions in some people. (Beet juice doesn't do that!)
Whether you're a vegan who used to enjoy Starbucks' soy Strawberry Frappuccinos, or you just want to slow down the bug slaying, there's a petition you can sign to make your opinion heard.