As reported by NPR "Vegetarians and others who'd rather not eat insects
protested when they found out the company colors certain food and drinks with cochineal, the red
"juice" a tiny white bug called Dactylopius coccus exudes when crushed." Due to the protests of this community, Starbucks says the drink will be bug-free.
Cliff Burrows, President of Starbucks, wrote on Starbucks blog.
expectation is to be fully transitioned to lycopene, a natural,
tomato-based extract, which is used in our Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino® blended beverage and our Strawberry
Banana Smoothie. This transition will occur over time as we finalize revisions and manage
production. Our intention is to be fully transitioned from existing
product inventories to revised food and beverage offerings near the end
of June across the U.S."
But what is cochineal exactly? After all, even though some find the idea of eatting bugs unappetizing, cochineal extract is FDA approved and considered an all natural alternative to petroleum based Allura or #40 red food dye.
The western aversion to eating bugs is far more recent historically that the use of these insects as a dye product. Cochineal live on cactus primarily in Central America. They have been used as clothing dyes for century's. Below we see an illustration of an "Indian Collecting Cochineal with a Deer Tail" by José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez (1777).
"Cochineal dye was used by the Aztec and Maya peoples of Central and North America. Eleven cities conquered by Moctezuma in the 15th century paid a yearly tribute of 2000 decorated cotton blankets and 40 bags of cochineal dye each.During the colonial period the production of cochineal (grana fina) grew rapidly. Produced almost exclusively in Oaxaca by indigenous producers, cochineal became Mexico's second most valued export after silver."