Strawberry Bugs?

When Starbucks changed its Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino mix, it made sure the new ingredients were dairy-free. But no one said anything about being bug-free.

Turns out the strawberry sauce used in the coffee chain’s Frappuccinos contains cochineal extract — made from the bodies of ground-up cochineal beetles.

Starbucks made the switch in January, when it aggressively moved away from artificial ingredients.

In order to make the dye they gather a bunch of these bugs and then they crush them. Then they harvest their juices in your frappacino. The juice is actually Carminic Acid which in nature is used to deter predators but in the food industry it is used to make a vibrant red food dye.  It is said that it takes up to 70,000 bugs to make 1 pound of coloring. Essentualy they take all the females, dry them out and then they crush them and then strain them… you don’t want little lady legs in your Frap now do you? Now in the case of Starbucks the dye is inside of their puree and it creates that signature bright pink color.  Companies like Starbucks like to use this process because it considered all natural.





Carmine or Carminic Acid… also known as Natural Red 4 is found in so many other food items such as yogurt, juices and sausages…


oh yeah don’t forget about lipstick and blush and other make up.


An anonymous vegan barista who works for Starbucks sent a picture of the sauce’s ingredient list to a vegetarian blog called , which recently posted it along with a warning that Strawberry Frappuccino is no longer vegan.

Notice how they say “Contains 100% Juice”, too many times people get this confused with “100% Juice”.  It is a play on words that marketers love to use throughout the advertising world.

The revelation sparked some criticism, even though, gross as putting crushed bugs in a drink might sound, it’s a common, government-approved food coloring used widely throughout the food industry. It’s in everything from some Yoplait yogurts to three Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts flavors.


Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson confirms “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.”

“We have a goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the Strawberry base isn’t a vegan product it helps us to move away from artificial dyes.”

The base also is used in Starbucks’ strawberry smoothies, according to Olson, and the insect-derived extract is in some other foods and drinks the chain sells, including its red velvet whoopie pies.

Three years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said food and cosmetic products must declare on their labels that they contain cochineal extract or another bug-derived coloring called carmine. The rule went into effect in early 2011. Until then, the insect additives often were listed as “artificial colors” or “color added.”

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an activist group that pushed the FDA for the new labeling requirements, praises Starbucks for moving away from artificial ingredients. But, noting that some people have allergic reactions to insects, Jacobson has a suggestion for Starbucks: “Strawberry Frapuccino should be colored with strawberries.”

Contributing: Gannett News Service & Chicago Sun Times

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Great article! I remember hearing about this in Men’s Health magazine, however i didn’t know the extent of this red #4. It’s good Starbucks is making a change in the right direction. Now only for more companies to follow suit.


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