After much public outcry and disgust, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is taking bugs off the menu. That’s right, the coffee franchise announced today that it’s phasing out the use of insects as food coloring in its drinks and food products.
In a blog post Thursday, Starbucks President Cliff Burrows wrote that the coffee seller is “transitioning” away from the use of an insect called the cochineal. Burrows admitted Starbucks “fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant in four food and two beverage offerings in the United States.”
The products in question? The Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing, and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie. Burrows said that use of the insect dye will be “fully transitioned from existing product inventories” by the end of June, after which Starbucks will use lycopene, a tomato-based extract.
While the cochineal has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and an earlier Burrows blog from March 29 described it as a natural product with no health risk, spokesman Jim Olson said the company was receiving numerous petitions and individual requests from people concerned about the insect-based extract. Vegetarians and vegans were particularly outraged after finding they had unknowingly consumed the insects. Olson cited public opinion, not health concerns, as the reason for the change.