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Starbucks drops red dye made from crushed bugs

Starbucks will stop using a dye made from crushed bugs in its Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos and other items after the ingredient prompted an outcry from some customers.

The coffee giant said in a blog post Thursday that it will gradually transition from using cochineal extract as a red food dye to using lycopene, which is tomato-based, for red and pink food and drinks. It expects the transition to be complete in the United States by the end of June.

Starbucks drew flak from some vegetarians after a vegan barista noticed last month that the company had started using cochineal extract, which is made from crushed insects, in the Frappuccinos. The company also used the product in strawberry banana smoothies, raspberry swirl cake, red velvet whoopie pies and a few other items.

At the time, the company said it had switched to the extract in response to customers who wanted Starbucks to use more natural ingredients.

But Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks U.S., said in the blog post Thursday that the company learned they had fallen short of customer expectations by switching to the bug-based dye.

“Our commitment to you, our customers, is to serve the highest quality products available. As our customers you expect and deserve better – and we promise to do better,” Burrows said in the post.

Still, the company noted that the ingredient is commonly used in juices, yogurts and other products. The Food and Drug Administration began requiring companies to tell consumers if they were using cochineal extract in 2009, citing the potential for allergic reactions.

The advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lauded the move, saying Starbucks clearly learned from its error.

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