This post has been updated.
Starbucks is taking heat this week from the vegan community after the company was discovered using cochineal beetles as food coloring for its frappuccinos, USA Today reports.
Like “pink slime,” the food coloring is government-approved and used widely in the food industry. But also like pink slime, or ammonia-treated beef, consumers haven’t been too happy to learn that the additive is in their food.
Vegans like Daelyn Fortney are upset because they say Starbucks presented the drink as vegan-friendly. Fortney, who is managing director of the vegan Web site “This Dish Is Veg,” has started a petition on Change.org to protest Starbucks’ use of the beetles in its drinks. Starbucks spokeswoman Linda Mills said that the company had never claimed its beverages were vegan, as there is always the possibility of “cross-contamination with other animal-derived products.”
Mills also said Starbucks understood the concerns of vegans.
“Following the news of pink slime... it is becoming apparent that few of us know exactly what is in the food we buy,” writes Food Court, a blog that covers food law news. “The question becomes whether the right to know would quell safe innovation in processed foods.”
(For other additives few consumers are aware of, see here.)
In the case of Starbucks, consumers’ right to know could quell efforts to find alternatives to artificial ingredients. Starbucks made the switch to cochineal beetles in January because the company was trying to get away from artificial coloring.
As for “pink slime,” the consumer knowledge may only make our products more expensive. National Meat Association spokesman Jeremy Russell told the Associated Press that if consumers insist on eliminating the product from ground beef, prices are sure to go up.