We were recently shocked to learn that Starbucks’ strawberry drinks are colored with ‘carmine’ – a dye made from crushed parasitic beetles. Those of us on an insect-free diet can now breathe a sigh of relief, as Starbucks just announced that their products from now on will get that extra splash of red from the vegan-friendly Tomat-O-Red dye. The all-natural color is produced by Israel-based company ‘Lycored’ and it’s – in contrast to carmine – claimed to be a healthy colorant full of antioxidants.

Tomatored, Lycored, starbucks, cochineal, carmine, natural dye

When Starbuck’s customers found out that their smoothies and cakes were cosmetically enhanced with carmine, they responded with an online petition resulting in over 6,500 signatures asking Starbucks to stop using it. Carmine is a red dye made from powdered insects called cochineal beetles that can be found in Mexico and South America, where they have been harvested for centuries even back in the Aztec and Mayan culture. PETA has estimated that it takes somewhere around 70,000 beetles to produce one pound of carmine, and the dye is used in everything from food to cosmetics.

Lycored produces Tomat-O-Red from ‘lycopene’, a strong antioxidant which boosts the body’s own ability to fight off cell-damaging free radicals. Lycopene is in turn derived from conventionally grown tomatoes which are non-GMO. Lycored claims that Tomat-O-Red is a ‘safe, vegetarian alternative to the common red colorants produced from insect extract’, and is even available in different shades of red ranging from cherry to strawberry red.

We can expect the red dye derived from cochineal beetles to be phased out from Starbuck’s products by the end of June this year.

+ Tomat-O-Red

+ Lycored

Via Green Prophet

Starbucks image by Schtumple on Flickr, Female Cochineal Beetle by Vahe Martirosyan on Wikimedia