In one of my recent posts – Are you unwittingly consuming animal products? The secret places animal products hide out – I mentioned the use of cochineal, a red-colored food dye made from crushed insects.
Well, this very same food dye recently hit the news when it was revealed that Starbucks use it to enhance the color of their Strawberry Frappuccino and Strawberry Smoothie drinks, to give them an appealing and appetizing pink hue.
An anonymous Starbucks barista, who is also vegan, is said to have blown the whistle by emailing the ‘This Dish is Veg’ website. He or she revealed that cochineal appears in the ingredient list of the strawberry sauce used to make the drinks. The whistle blower also sent a photo of the ingredients list for good measure.
Cochineal, although considered to be safe by the FDA, isn’t suitable for vegans and anyone who doesn’t want to consume a product made from crushed insects, vegan or otherwise, needs to be aware that it is a common addition to many pink and red-colored foods and drinks such as jelly, marinades, cheese and certain alcoholic drinks.
Starbucks were prompted to issue a statement, partly in response to requests from vegans, to clarify the origin of colorings added to the Strawberry Frappuccino and Smoothie drinks. The full statement appeared on the ABC business blog and reads:
At Starbucks, we strive to carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs. We also have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn’t a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes.
“Many Starbucks ingredients can be combined to create a beverage free from animal-derived products; however, we are unable to guarantee this due to the potential cross-contamination with other animal-derived products in our retail locations.”
It’s unclear as to whether Starbucks have ever publicly claimed that these drinks were vegan-friendly, but it seems that the company is prepared to take the views of their vegan customers on board; a move that is probably a good idea, in the light of the company recently launching their vegetarian and vegan-friendly juice bar chain.
Chief Executive Officer, Howard Schultz, appeared on CBS This Morning earlier this month and said:
We are examining it (cochineal) and probably will reformulate it (the drink).”
Possible alternatives to cochineal include purple sweet potatoes or beets or, as some have already suggested, perhaps strawberries would make a good alternative?!