Starbucks has recently taken a lot of heat after news broke that the massive coffee chain was using “carmine”, a powdered dye made from crushed parasitic beetles, to give their red drinks an extra burst of color (can I get a collective EWWWW?). If you’re on a meatless (or bugless) diet and had no idea your strawberry smoothies consisted of beetlejuice, you’ll be relieved to know they’ll now be using vegan-friendly Tomat-O-Red dye instead.
Tomat-O-Red is an all-natural product created by Israeli company Lycored, and is reported to be a healthy color additive loaded with antioxidants. The color is derived from lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes that boosts our bodies with protection from cell-damaging free radicals. The company only uses non-GMO, conventionally grown tomatoes to create the vegetarian alternative to insect-based red colorants.
Carmine is a red dye made from cochineal beetles, an insect found in South America and Mexico that has been harvested since the days of Mayan and Aztec culture. According to PETA, it takes about 70,000 beetles to produce a pound of carmine, which is used in all sorts of food and cosmetic products.
When news broke about carmine use, Starbucks customers responded by starting an online petition to get the company to stop using it, which gained over 6,500 signatures. The message was heard loud and clear, and by the end of June of this year you can expect to be served beetle-free smoothies.
Would the use of crushed beetles keep you from consuming a product, or are you a little less grossed out by it than I am?