Here’s a Starbucks order to try out: a Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino with soy milk and a shot of crushed parasitic insects.
Actually, you don’t need to order the bugs — they come standard with the drink, in the form of the red dye used to give the frap that special strawberry color.
Yes, the insects are crushed, and yes, they are a commonly used natural food dye. Enjoyed a strawberry PopTart lately? Yeah, those use crushed critters for coloring, too.
So you may have already eaten your peck of bugs, and besides, insects are nutritious. Still, there’s obviously a bit of an “ew” factor here. It’s one thing to eat bugs knowingly, but when a gigantic corporation sticks them into a sugar bomb without asking, I think one is entitled to feel at least as miffed as when one’s parents snuck broccoli into a perfectly good Kraft macaroni-and-cheese dinner. There are some health impacts, too, for the factory workers who produce the dye.
The Starbucks bug juice poses the biggest problem for vegans, who thought the dairy-free version of the frap was safe to consume. And this dye scandal won’t exactly help build trust between Starbucks and the super-crunchy demographic they’re courting with their new juice bars. (Who knows what kind of bugs will be blended into those kale smoothies?)
There are alternative natural dyes, derived from vegetables, that Starbucks could use. But a better solution might be for people to stop trusting that drinks that look like they came straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon have anything in common with healthy lifestyles — even if they’re supposedly vegan.
UPDATE: We originally said that the dye uses crushed beetles. That’s false. Don’t worry, everyone! The dye contains no crushed beetles at all! They are crushed SCALE INSECTS.
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