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Starbucks Or Starbugs? Petition Urges Coffee Giant To Stop Using Insects As Coloring

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Is it Starbucks or starbugs?

An online petition is being circulated urging the coffee giant to stop using a red dye -- said to be made from dried, female cochineal insects -- in its strawberries & crème frappuccino as well as it strawberry smoothies.

CBS News reported
the alleged use of creepy crawlies in Starbucks drinks came to light via the website

A barista, who works at a Starbucks location, wrote the the website saying the aforementioned drinks are not vegan and that the "strawberry sauce we use contains 'cochineal extract.'"

A cochineal is a "primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico," according to Wikipedia.

The online petition, posted at, cites reports that indicate "it takes 80,000 cochineal to produce 1 pound of the red dye." Furthermore, the petition says that the die is known to cause "severe allergic reactions" in some people.

Starbucks has replied to the controversy, saying it strives to "carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs," adding it also has "the goal to minimize artificial ingredients" in its products."

"While the strawberry base isn't a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes," the statement concluded.

The petition, which as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday had 481 signatures, suggested there were other ways to achieve the red coloring without using the bugs, including red beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato and paprika.

What do you think about the controversy?  Did you sign the petition?  Share your thoughts in the comments section...

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