For years I’ve read about the evils of red dye — and I’ve seen first-hand the effects it has on my children — so I’ve tried my best to avoid not only red dyes but all artificial dyes. Starbucks' Strawberries & Crème Frappucinos were on our special treat list, and although I didn’t know what helped create the beautiful pink color, I knew it wasn’t red dye.

 

Yesterday, while driving my son to a doctor’s appointment, he and I both learned that Starbucks uses a natural dye made from crushed bugs, thanks to a CNN news piece broadcast over our satellite radio. My stomach turned and my son praised Starbucks’ choice to use a natural product.

 

Although my son was supportive of the natural dye choice, not everyone was. In fact, the bug dye issue has caused a bit of a brouhaha among vegans. Evidently the Strawberries & Crème Frappucino was made without dairy products, which is good if you’re a vegan, but there was no mention made about the specific source of the red colorant. The Seattle Times reports that the red dye contains a product made from ground-up insects that can be found in Latin America and the result is a product called cochineal extract.

 

Starbucks isn’t the only company that uses cochineal extract, and until FDA label regulations were updated last year, many companies simply listed the bug-based product as “artificial colors” or another non-specific label.

 

Now that specifics are required, we all know what we’re getting if we order a Strawberries & Crème Frappucino, but that doesn’t sit well with vegans who insist fruit and vegetable-based colorants can be used instead.

 

Jeff Cronin, a spokesperson with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, commented on the use of vegan colorants. "I bet real strawberries could be used. Why simulate the color of strawberries when you could probably get a pretty good result with strawberries or beet juice or something that won't concern your customers?" Source: The Seattle Times

 

I admit, I naively thought that the pink color of one of my children’s favorite treats was the result of actual strawberries.

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