(CBS Detroit) Strawberry connoisseurs of the world unite! That pink stuff in your Starbucks strawberry Frappuccino and smoothie may not be what you think it is.
Vegetarian website thisdishisvegetarian.com broke the news this week that the bright pink color that looks so festive in your cup is actually made from cochineal extract, or the crushed shells of tiny cochineal insects.
The shells were a recent addition to a drink formula that used to be vegan, the site says.
“It just goes to show, even if we get the thumbs up on supposed vegan products, it’s always good to double-check packaging, if possible. You never know when something new will be slipped in,” the site says.
They confronted Starbucks, and the company responded with a statement that says, “While the strawberry base isn’t a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes.”
It sparked a petition on change.org that demands Starbucks switch out the crushed bug shell dye for red beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato or paprika, which it says are all-natural alternatives and safe for those with dietary restrictions.
The petition had 450 signatures Tuesday afternoon. “How about actual strawberries!” Jennifer Madison wrote on the petition.
Though it is approved by the FDA, the dye has been found to cause asthma in some people and is one of the colors the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group recommends be eliminated from the diet of children struggling with hyperactivity disorder.
The dye is also used extensively to add red color to cosmetics, and to add a healthy pink hue to some meats, ketchup, canned fruit, packaged desserts and soft drinks. The FDA requires everything that contains the crushed shells to list cochineal extract on the product label.