SEATTLE: When US coffee chain Starbucks changed its Frappuccino mix a couple of years ago, it made sure the new ingredients were dairy-free. But no one said anything about being bug-free.
It turns out the strawberry sauce used in the Strawberries & Creme Frappuccinos contains cochineal extract, which is made from the bodies of ground-up insects indigenous to Latin America.
A vegan barista who works for Starbucks sent a picture of the sauce's ingredient list to a blog called ThisDishIsVegetarian.com, which posted it earlier this month. The revelation sparked criticism from advocacy groups.
''The strawberry base for our Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino does contain cochineal extract, a common natural dye that is used in the food industry, and it helps us move away from artificial ingredients,'' said a company spokesman, Jim Olson.
The base also is used in other foods and drinks the chain sells.
However, Starbucks is hardly the only one.
Cochineal extract and a similar ingredient called carmine, also made from the insects, are bright red and can be found in fruit juices, gelatins and other foods, as well as many make-up products.
They were used for red dye in Mexico and the Italian liqueur Campari originally contained carmine dye.
Three years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration said food and cosmetic products must declare on their labels that they contain cochineal extract or carmine. The rule went into effect in early 2011.
Until then, the insect additives often were listed as ''artificial colours'' or ''colour added''.
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, an activist group that pushed the FDA for the new labelling requirement, said the agency should have banned the colourants altogether or at least explain they come from insects.
In the case of Starbucks' strawberry Frappuccinos, the centre's spokesman, Jeff Cronin, said: ''I bet real strawberries could be used. Why simulate the colour of strawberries when you could probably get a pretty good result with strawberries or beet juice or something that won't concern your customers?''
Via Sydney Morning Herald