Starbucks bug story is big news outside Seattle

Starbucks just had to expect this.

Word that the Seattle-based coffee giant no longer will use crushed red bugs to color its flavored offerings–and even that it used them in the first place–has inspired the world’s news media.

“Beetle mania gets results: Starbucks de-bugs Frapps,” USA Today declared. “Starbucks wants to stop bugging you,” read the headline on the website of the York (Pa.) Daily Record over a brief item that referred to “Starbugs, er Starbucks.” Down South, a headline at the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer proclaimed, “The Starbucks ‘secret’ menu.”

North of the the border, the Montreal Gazette ran with this headline: “Starbucks exterminates its bugs.” The Calgary Herald reported, “Starbucks de-bugs drink dye.” Just up Puget Sound, the Victoria Times Colonist went with, “No more bugs for frap fans.”

Down Under readers saw “Starbucks works bugs out of its system” in the Sydney Morning Herald.

From the standpoint of Starbucks, even the pun-free headlines weren’t much better. “Starbucks getting rid of bug extract” or “Starbucks to stop used ‘crushed bug’ dye” were pretty common–and disgusting. Perhaps hoping to gross out readers a little bit less, a few media outlets used “beetles” instead of bugs, like “Starbucks Puts Dead Beetles in Frappucinos” over a Miami New Times blog post and, in a suburban Chicago paper, “Meet the beetles–in your frappuccino.” The Washington Post came up with this: “Starbucks to stop using dried insects to color Frappuccinos.”

I imagine that at the Starbucks world headquarters along 1st Avenue S in Seattle, there is still a lot of red–on faces.

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Starbucks bug story is big news outside Seattle — 4 Comments

  1. Well, I would say a large amount of the brouhaha was caused not by the fact that the coloring came from bugs, but from the fact that Starbucks didn’t go out of its way to let its customers know that, especially those who are vegan. However, it seems to me that Starbucks did exactly what you said in your second sentence it didn’t: “It’s not like someone at SBUX said, ‘Hey, I have an idea, let’s grind up bugs and put them in our drinks!’ ”

  2. GOOD GRIEF! It’s not like someone at SBUX said, “Hey, I have an idea, let’s grind up bugs and put them in our drinks!” This is a product that has been used for centuries in all sorts of foods and drinks. It’s actually preferred by some because it may be safer than synthetic red dyes.

    And now, for the rest of the story…
    “The cochineal is a scale insect from which the crimson-colored dye carmine is derived. The insect produces carminic acid that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, which occurs as 17-24% of the weight of the dry insects, can be extracted from the insect’s body and eggs and mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye (also known as cochineal). Carmine is today primarily used as a food coloring and for cosmetics.
    The carmine dye was used in Central America in the 15th century for colorings fabrics and became an important export good during the colonial period. After synthetic pigments and dyes such as alizarin were invented in the late 19th century, natural-dye production gradually diminished. Health fears over artificial food additives, however, have renewed the popularity of cochineal dyes.
    Cochineal is one of the few water-soluble colorants that resist degradation with time. It is one of the most light- and heat-stable and oxidation-resistant of all the natural organic colorants and is even more stable than many synthetic food colors. The water-soluble form is used in alcoholic drinks with calcium carmine; the insoluble form is used in a wide variety of products. Together with ammonium carmine, they can be found in meat, sausages, processed poultry products (meat products cannot be colored in the United States unless they are labeled as such), surimi, marinades, alcoholic drinks, bakery products and toppings, cookies, desserts, icings, pie fillings, jams, preserves, gelatin desserts, juice beverages, varieties of cheddar cheese and other dairy products, sauces, and sweets”

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