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Crushed Insects Dye Starbucks Frappuccinos

Carmine, or cochineal extract, is a coloring agent derived from the crushed pregnant bodies of a type of small parasitic beetle-like insect. Up until last year, food manufacturers didn’t even have to list it on the label, but now, thanks to an FDA petition brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it has to be listed among the ingredients. The consumer group also asked that the dye specifically be identified as “insect-derived” for the benefit of those who try to maintain Kosher, Muslim, vegan, or bug-free diets, but the FDA rejected that part of the petition. Thanks to the burgeoning food movement, though, these “pink slime” ingredients are coming to light and Starbucks was the latest corporation to draw criticism for using cochineal to pinken their strawberry Frappuccinos. Are there any human health implications of bug-based food colors? That’s the topic of my video pick shown above.

When I sift through the medical literature every year, there are three criteria I find myself using. Is it groundbreaking? Is it interesting? Is it practical? Some study results may be interesting and innovative (dog rose berries have five times more antioxidants than blueberries?), but not practical to put into daily practice (what the heck are dog rose berries?). I’m always on the lookout for papers that have real-world implications, data with the potential to affect life’s day-to-day decisions. That’s the reasoning behind my HHH series (of which the above video is an example), presenting the latest data on whether various foods and substances are bad for you, neither good nor bad, or good for you:

Harmful, Harmless, or Helpful?

- Acrylamide
- Airborne® Supplements
- alfalfa sprouts
- antiseptic mouthwash
- artificial butter flavor
- artificial sweeteners
- avocados
- Ayurvedic supplements
- bacon
- beet juice
- betel nuts
- black pepper
- broccoli sprouts
- carob
- chili peppers
- chocolate
- citric acid
- cocoa powder
- coconut oil
- cod liver oil
- coffee
- dates
- dragon fruit
- dragon’s blood
- eggs
- fish oil supplements
- folic acid supplements
- gluten
- glyconutrient supplements
- goji berries
- gooseberries
- gum arabic
- Herbalife® supplements
- hibiscus tea
- iron pills
- kale juice
- kelp
- kimchi
- kombucha tea
- licorice
- lutein supplements
- lycopene supplements
- mangosteen juice
- matcha tea
- multivitamin supplements
- naturally scented household products
- Neti pots
- noni juice
- osmanthus tea
- Nutrasweet®
- peanut butter
- plant-based Atkins diet
- plastics
- pomegranate juice
- potassium sorbate
- red tea
- saffron
- selenium supplements
- sodium benzoate
- soy with breast cancer
- spirulina supplements
- star fruit
- stevia
- sweet potatoes
- tea
- tulsi tea
- vaseline
- vinegar
- vitamin B12 supplements
- vitamin C supplements
- vitamin D supplements
- vitamin E supplements
- white potatoes
- yerba maté
- zinc gel for colds


In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: madprime / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


+ add your own
5:45PM PDT on May 2, 2012

I personally know people who eat insects and look forward to have them. I had some myself and they're quite tasty.

This IS the safe, edible food colorant.

Besides, Starbuck's insect frappuccinos still beat out January Jone's placenta slurpies !

12:36PM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

Ugh, the thing is you don't even need it in there, it's added to "Pinken" the drink... It's all for looks. I'd rather have a less pink drink with no bugs, thank you very much.

4:32AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012


7:36PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

This doesn't matter to me, at least you can't taste that they're in there!

5:49AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Thanks for the article.

2:35AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012


6:19PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

I've known about this beetle thing for years, and I don't find it gross or scary in any way. Whether or not you eat insects is primarily a cultural concern.

That said, I'm not allergic to it. And considering how few people are, I suppose it isn't all that big a deal. Labeling? Sure, it would be great if those who are allergic could be alerted.

But of course, vegan dr. Gergen and his vegan agenda is going to turn it into an issue on his vegan website.

I skipped the other links, presuming that they would all be more vegan propaganda being put out by a "doctor" who doesn't seem to care that he's harming humans along the way, completely overlooking the fact that plant-only diets are actually harmful to our health if eaten for long periods of time.

11:35AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

there has been cochineal around since I was a kid, at least 50 years and its never done anyone any harm. I would rather use this than some chemical and you may discover causes cancer a few years down the road. I would expect that vegitarians might balk at using it, but if the alternative is a chemical???

12:54AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

I hate that place! X.x
Even when I go there with friends I get nothing and just sit and stare at them as they sip their shittychinos.

6:31PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

i agree with pamela k. the chemical alternative could potentially be even more harmful,

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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