Starbucks to phase out coloring from crushed beetles

Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:39pm EDT

Packets of Starbucks coffee are seen in a supermarket in Santa Monica, California, January 27, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Packets of Starbucks coffee are seen in a supermarket in Santa Monica, California, January 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp said on its blog on Thursday that it will stop using a natural, government-approved coloring made from crushed beetles in its strawberry flavoring by late June, bowing to pressure from some vegetarian customers.

Starbucks has been using the extract in its strawberry frappuccinos and smoothies, as well as some deserts like raspberry swirl cake.

"After a thorough, yet fastidious, evaluation, I am pleased to report that we are reformulating the affected products to assure the highest quality possible," Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks U.S., wrote in a blog post.

Instead, the coffeehouse chain said it plans to use lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract.

Burrows said Starbucks "fell short" of customer expectations. One blogger in March began an online petition to pressure Starbucks to stop the practice.

Ground up cochineal beetles is a commonly used Food and Drug Administration-approved food coloring.

(Reporting By Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Michael Perry)

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