Crushed Beetles and Carmine – the Hidden Places Where You May be Consuming it

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Do you love the color pink enough to consume bugs in order to have pink food or drinks? Well Starbucks, and many other food retailers, think the pink is important enough to sneak crushed-up beetles into your consumables for the purpose of, ironically, making them seem more appetizing. That’s right, if you are in love with any of Starbucks strawberry-based drinks, such as the Strawberries and Creme frappuccino and strawberry smoothie, as well as their popular Birthday Cake Pop, mini donuts with icing and Red Velvet Whoopee Pie, you have been consuming bugs. The change to crushed bugs came just recently as they aimed to move away from artificial ingredients, such as red dye, and decided that bugs were more natural. While their thoughts were in the right place, the execution was less than thrilling to most.

While Starbucks seems to be baring the brunt of backlash against this buggy ingredient, the fact is that this ingredient, called cochineal extract, is used in many pink and red-based food and beverages, and has been for decades. Most rainbow sprinkles contain cochineal extract, as well as a vast majority of pink confections on the markets. Foods and beverages that some may be surprised to find out contain crushed beetles include:

  • Minute Maid Fruit Drink
  • Good N’ Fruity & Good N’ Plenty
  • Pixy Stix
  • Mentos Candy and Chewing Gum (which, by the way, also contain beef)
  • Dole Fruit ‘n’ Gel Bowls
  • Dole Fruit Jars

The good news is that the FDA recently made it mandatory that foods containing cochineal extract specifically state as much on their ingredients list. They began receiving reports of allergic reactions in those who unknowingly consumed the bugs, including severe reactions such as anaphylaxis. While many have known for years that cochineal is used in cosmetics, such as red lipstick, to give them their red hue, many less savvy consumers were horrified to learn that they were consuming bugs. Those who are aiming to make sure that they stay bug clean in their diet should scan ingredients lists for either “cochineal extract” or “carmine”.

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The other piece of good news is that Starbucks has announced that as of June 2012, the cochineal extract will be replaced with lycopene extract, a tomato derivative. Drop them a line and let them know that you appreciate them acting so swiftly to rid their beverages of bugs!

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