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Insects in Strawberry Frappuccinos? Starbucks Admits Bugs Behind Color

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- You can get your Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino venti, grande or tall.  You just can’t get it without insects, to which it owes its pink and rosy color.

In what the company says was a move intended to reduce its use of artificial ingredients, Starbucks has started using cochineal extract to supply its Frappuccinos’ strawberry hue. 

Cochineal extract is derived from grinding up insects, the dried bodies of cochineal bugs, found primarily in Mexico and South America.  Cochineal dye has been used as a coloring agent since the 15th century.

Before you get all bothered about your insect-infused Frappuccino, be advised: Cochineal is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration, and is widely used for coloration in jams, preserves, meat, marinades, alcoholic drinks, bakery products, cookies, cheddar cheese and many other food products.

It has been found by the World Health Organization, however, to cause asthma in some people, and an allergic reaction in others.

Starbucks’ statement, issued partly in response to vegans asking if the use of this ingredient makes Strawberry Frappuccino vegan or not, reads in full:

“At Starbucks, we strive to carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs. We also have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn’t a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes. Many Starbucks ingredients can be combined to create a beverage free from animal-derived products; however, we are unable to guarantee this due to the potential cross-contamination with other animal-derived products in our retail locations.”

A vegetarian website, ThisDishIsVegetarian.com, brands the strawberry drink non-vegan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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