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July 26, 2012 / Rabeh Soofi

Beetlejuice Banned: Starbucks Drops Crushed-Insect Extracts from Drinks & Pastries

Java-giant Starbucks has pulled the plug (or rather, bug) on the insect-based dye used for its red drinks and pastries.

For years, Starbucks had been using “cochineal extract,” a deep red dye obtained from the cochineal, a small beetle whose females produce red coloring when crushed, due to a high concentration of carminic acid in their bodies. About 70,000 insects are used to make a pound of dye.  The bug-juice made its way into virtually all pink or red-colored Starbucks products – the Strawberries & Cream Frappucino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with Pink Icing, and the deep maroon-colored Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

The change came after a barista notified vegan news sites that Starbucks’ products were not vegan products, because they contained insect-based dyes.  An online petition was started on, and after obtaining 6,000 signatures, Starbucks took notice and eliminated the bug-juice from its ingredient list for red-colored drinks, pastries, and deserts.

Unfortunately, extracts from the cochineal beetle are still in high demand.  Apparently, cochineal extract is used in numerous consumer, including Tropicana juices, Minute Maid juices, SoBe Lifewater varieties, and Dole diced fruit, lipsticks, beauty products, and other items.  As of April 16, 2012, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is revising its regulations to require companies to disclose whether cochineal extract and carmine are used in any alcoholic beverages.

Consumers who purchase products marketed as “vegan” could be deceived by false advertising, if those products are not actually vegan.  If you believe you have been the victim of deceptive advertising, please contact Khorrami, LLP for a confidential consultation.


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