Starbucks has landed in hot water with some vegetarians over a decision to use a food coloring made from crushed bugs in products including its Strawberries and Creme Frappuccinos and red velvet whoopee pies.
The coffee giant recently started using cochineal extract, which is made from crushed insects, as a food dye in products that are pink or red in color.
Spokesman Jim Olson told msnbc.com the company switched to the extract in response to customers who wanted Starbucks to use more natural ingredients whenever possible.
“This is an alternative to other synthetic red dyes that are out there,” Olson said, adding that the product is commonly used in juices, yogurts and other products.
The ingredient change caught the attention of a vegan barista, who sent a copy of the ingredient list to a website called This Dish is Veg.
Change.org, an advocacy group, then launched a petition aiming to stop the company from using the product. About 800 people had signed it as of Wednesday afternoon.