The Strawberry frappucino at Starbucks offers customers a red-colored fruit blend as company has started using a "natural" dye.
The country-style inspired strawberry drink contains cochineal extract, which consists of thousand of crushed insects that give the beverage its rosy-pink hue.
Cochineal bugs are found primarily in Mexico and South America. The bug's extract has been used as a coloring agent since the 15th century, and is formed by grinding the insects up and using their dried bodies as dye.
Producing hues such as deep crimson, scarlet, pink, and orange, cochineal dye is of the most important traditional natural textile dyes in Central and South America, according to cochinealdye.com.
The natural dye has been deemed safe by the FDA, and is often used in hundreds of food products such as jams, meat, marinades, and cookies, among many others.
As part of an effort to reduce use of artificial ingredients, Starbucks has started using cochineal extract to supply the frappuccino's color.
"At Starbucks, we strive to carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs," said the coffee company in a statement. "We also have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products."
The Seattle-based company was asked by the vegetarian website, ThisDishIsVegetarian.com, to identify vegan-safe products offered in their shops.
"While the strawberry base isn't a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes," continued Starbucks' statement. "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."
Starbucks boasts the highest quality coffee and has coffeehouses in 55 countries, including over 11,000 in the U.S. alone. Along with their drip brew coffee and espresso drinks, the company also offers salads, sandwiches, and snacks, as well as many other items.