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Starbucks to phase out bug-based dyes from 6 food, drink items

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

(CBS News) Starbucks announced today it will stop using cochineal extract - a food dye made from crushed up bugs - in four food and two beverage products.

Is Starbucks ditching bug dye from its Strawberry Frappuccinos?Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccinos dyed with crushed up cochineal bugs, report says

Starbucks U.S. president Cliff Burrows wrote in a company blog that the company will transition to lycopene, a natural tomato-based extract used for coloring. Drinks such as the Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino blended beverage and Strawberry Banana Smoothies, as well as foods including Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

"Our commitment to you, our customers, is to serve the highest quality products available," Burrows wrote. "As our customers you expect and deserve better - and we promise to do better.... Our intention is to be fully transitioned from existing product inventories to revised food and beverage offerings near the end of June across the U.S."

The crushed bug-brouhaha boiled over when vegetarian and vegan news site got a tip from a barista that Strawberry and Creme Frappuccinos were not vegan products because they contained the bug-based dye. That led to a social media backlash as well as a petition on to remove the dye from the product.

The FDA says the dye is safe and food and cosmetic labels must state if cochineal extract is present. Cochineal extract is often found in yogurts, candies, fruit drinks, ice creams, ketchup, lipsticks, eyeshadow, nail polish and other pink and red products. The extract, also known as "carmine" or "crimson lake," has been used for thousands of years to dye fabrics by crushing up their dried bodies.

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