NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Is it Starbucks or starbugs?

An online petition is being circulated urging the coffee giant to stop using a red dye — said to be made from dried, female cochineal insects — in its strawberries & crème frappuccino as well as it strawberry smoothies.

CBS News reported
the alleged use of creepy crawlies in Starbucks drinks came to light via the website

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A barista, who works at a Starbucks location, wrote the the website saying the aforementioned drinks are not vegan and that the “strawberry sauce we use contains ‘cochineal extract.'”

A cochineal is a “primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico,” according to Wikipedia.

The online petition, posted at, cites reports that indicate “it takes 80,000 cochineal to produce 1 pound of the red dye.” Furthermore, the petition says that the die is known to cause “severe allergic reactions” in some people.

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Starbucks has replied to the controversy, saying it strives to “carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs,” adding it also has “the goal to minimize artificial ingredients” in its products.”

“While the strawberry base isn’t a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes,” the statement concluded.

The petition, which as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday had 481 signatures, suggested there were other ways to achieve the red coloring without using the bugs, including red beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato and paprika.

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What do you think about the controversy?  Did you sign the petition?  Share your thoughts in the comments section…