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No Bugs in MY Bucks

StarbucksNot long after the popular coffee chain, Starbucks, came under scrutiny for secretly upping their prices without a word to consumers, a much more disgusting problem has come to light. A problem that is sure to bug those living a vegan or kosher lifestyle alike. That’s right, the red dye found in some of their cakes, shakes, and other rosy items is made from crushed cochineal insect dye.

What is cochineal insect dye? Well it’s actually more common than you might think, with common purchases like lipstick, juices, desserts and more all containing a bit of the creepy crawler. In fact, it’s been used for hundreds of years as a natural food coloring and for artist’s paint, dating all the way back to the Aztecs and Mayans.

But that hasn’t stopped the public from jumping right onto the cochineal hate train and riding it all over the internet, forcing the crimson bugs to be exterminated by the Starbucks corporation.

Despite the rich history of this South American insect, vegans were upset that they were eating a dead animal; some Jewish men and women were upset that their lattes and lollipops weren’t kosher; and most of America was pretty much just grossed out that the red swirls in their favorite beverages came from the dried out carcasses of scale insects. And on the heels of the “pink slime” trend, it was easy enough to get a grass roots web movement that would create a massive voice of displeasure.

The Seattle coffee giant listened.

Starbucks has made a company mandate that there will be no more cochineal dyes used in their stores by the end of June, with U.S. President Cliff Burrows writing on his blog, “As our customers, you expect and deserve better – and we promise to do better.”

The new ingredient that will color their popular scarlet dishes? That would be a tomato extract called lycopene, which has shown to have a slew of possible benefits . . . outside the fact that it isn’t crushed up pests. There are some researchers who believe strongly in the inverse correlation between consumption of tomatoes and cancer risk, pointing to lycopene as a potential agent for prevention of some types of cancer. But that would all just be pink-colored icing on the cake.

So if you’re one of the few people out there who’s looking forward to see exactly what a delicacy these rich-historied bugs can be, I suggest you get to a Starbucks in the next couple of weeks. Just don’t expect your vegan and kosher friends to join you.

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