(NaturalNews) On Thursday, April 19, Starbucks Corp finally bowed to public pressure and announced, via its blog, that it would no longer use carmine, the crushed beetle food coloring it had switched to using in its strawberry flavoring back in January of this year. Instead, by late June all stores will begin using the natural, tomato-based extract lycopene.
The January 2012 announcement that it would begin using the beetle-based food dye was met with an enormous wave of criticism. No wonder! According to Thermo Scientific, "Cochineal is a natural red color from the egg yolks and other parts of the dried female insect Dactylopius coccus Costa, a parasite of the prickly pear cactus ... it requires 70,000 insects to make one pound of color. The product, which in its processed form is usually called Carmine, is a crumbly solid or a powder." The real news is that it took Starbucks four months to realize that the public might not find that very appetizing.
Lycopene - a solid choice
At any rate, better late than never! Prior to the failed carmine experiment, Starbucks had actually been switching its ingredients to less toxic, more natural sources. This latest ingredient switch is a solid move that other companies that use carmine should emulate. Lycopene, a red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, pink grape fruit, and other reddish-colored produce, is an excellent choice to replace the insect juice. Known as an antioxidant with cancer and other disease-fighting capabilities, lycopene also doesn't have the 'yuck' factor nor the allergic reaction history associated with the ingredient it is replacing. Though anyone who frequents Starbucks should be aware of the sugar and caffeine in the desserts and beverages they purchase and consume there, the replacement of cochineal extract with lycopene is certainly a step in the right direction as well as a testament to the effectiveness of public pressure.
As always, truth-in-labeling is key
This story is yet another example of how important truth-in-labeling laws really are. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to some degree, finally recognized the rights of vegetarians, kosher adherents, those who could be allergic, as well as the general public to know whether or not insects are in the food supply, public pressure could be pointed in the right direction. Thankfully, Starbucks wasn't allowed to make this switch under cover of darkness.
Prior to 2011, companies that used the crushed beetle-juice were not required by the FDA to admit it on their labeling. They weren't even required to use technical names such as carmine or cochineal extract. Instead, though some did label it voluntarily, most would slyly list the ingredient as 'color added.' Nobody knew just how many products contained the insect-based dyes.
However, when the FDA changed their labeling requirements in 2009 (effective in 2011), they only required the technical name. Even now, the word 'carmine' doesn't connote insect-origins, except to those who already know or take the time to look it up. The Juice Products Association said they supported the labeling requirement, but opposes any requirement to specifically label the food dyes as insect-derived. Of course they do. Who would want to eat it then? This is the same logic GMO producers use to resist labeling their products as genetically modified.
Who would want to eat it? The answer would put the likes of Monsanto out of business.
About the author: Scott is a blogger, writer, and researcher whose primary focus is how to raise healthy kids despite a system and status quo that makes it as difficult as possible. He and his wife, Kim, live in the hills of east Tennessee with their four small children. He holds an MBA from East Tennessee State University. Scott and Kim blog about parenting, marriage, healthy lifestyle, nutrition, and homesteading at www.amorefieldlife.com. Connect with them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amorefieldlife.
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