by Staff of CityHolistic.com
By now you may have read news stories about some of the most popular strawberry drinks at Starbucks containing a weird substance for coloring – cochineal extract. How does this translate into bugs being in your frappuccino?
Cochineal extract is a red-dye used for coloring yogurt, candy, and many red processed foods and actually comes from… well, bugs! A Starbucks barista submitted information to www.thisdishisvegetarian.com, stating that Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccinos and many of their smoothies contained cochineal extract. Cell phone pictures were also included of the actual ingredients list.
Here is a brief description from the Cochineal Extract Ingredient Report of what cochineal extract is and how it’s processed into a dye from crushed Cochineal insects:
“…A dye which can produce a variety of shades from pink, red, crimson, and purple. This colorant is made from the female Cochineal insects which are native to South America. The insects are scale insects which lives and feeds on cacti. Cochineal Extract is made from the dried and pulverized insects whereas Carmine is more purified. To produce Carmine, the insects are boiled and filtered with other chemicals.”
Not only is this non-appetizing for Starbucks drinkers, but cochineal extract may also cause adverse health effects. WHO Food Additives Series 46:Cochineal Extract, Carmine, and Carminic Acid (Food Standards Agency) lists a number of health effects including diarrhea, anaphylaxis, asthma, hives. The colorant is also known to cause hyperactivity in children.
Fortunately, exposing of these bugs did come with a friendlier choice for frappuccino ingredients. Starbucks has chosen to now use lycopene, a red crystal that is the main pigment in foods such as tomatoes and grapefruit. This story reinforces the always important tip for consumers and their families: know what you are consuming and read the ingredients!