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Published: Friday, 4/20/2012

Starbucks to drop dried insect ingredient

Tropical bug extract added color to drinks

Starbucks' Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino included the extract. Starbucks' Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino included the extract.

WASHINGTON -- Starbucks Corp., the world's largest coffee-shop chain, plans to stop using an extract made of dried insects to color some frappuccinos and pastries after an online campaign asked for the ingredient to be removed.

The retailer said Thursday its U.S. stores will phase out by June use of a red dye derived from cochineal insects, a tropical bug found in Mexico and South America. The colorant will be replaced with lycopene, a tomato extract, the Seattle company said.

More than 6,500 people signed an Internet petition asking Starbucks to stop using the insects because it isn't vegan or kosher, and consumers "don't want crushed bugs in their designer drinks." The extract had been used in the company's Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, raspberry swirl cake, birthday cake pop, mini donut with pink icing, and red velvet whoopee pie, according to the statement.

"We've learned that we fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant," Cliff Burrows, Starbucks president for the United States and the Americas, said in a statement. "As our customers you expect and deserve better -- and we promise to do better."

Jim Olson, a company spokesman, said the company hadn't decided whether to continue using the cochineal extract outside the United States.

There is no safety or quality issue with the extract, which is a widely used ingredient approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mr. Olson said.

Other companies use cochineal dye in products such as lipstick, yogurt, and shampoo.

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