LOS ANGELES (CN) – Starbucks sold food and drinks dyed red with an extract from crushed beetle carcasses, without disclosing it as required, consumers say in a Superior Court class action.
Named plaintiff Shaun Anderson accuses Starbucks of unfair competition, false advertising, unjust enrichment, fraud and violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act. He claims Starbucks “hid the fact” that its products contained cochineal extract, which is used in many food products.
Anderson claims that Starbucks even “bragged” about not using beets to color its products, but never mentioned that it was using bugs.
“Unbeknownst to plaintiff and class members, Starbucks has been selling various red-colored food and beverage products with the added ingredient cochineal extract,” the complaint states. “Cochineal extract is an extract derived from the crushed carcasses of red-colored beetles (cochineal beetles measure approximately .20 inches … ). The extract was used by Starbucks to provide a red-color dye to the food and beverage products that were sold to unwary consumers including plaintiff and class members.”
Indians in pre-Columbian Mexico first used the beetles to produce the dye. The extract is made by drying the dead insects in the, sun then crushing them into the powdered dye. Roughly 70,000 beetles make 1 lb. of the bug dye.
Some people are allergic to cochineal, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that companies declare the ingredient on labels.
The class claims that Starbucks’ strawberries & crème frappuccino, strawberry banana smoothie, raspberry swirl cake, birthday cake pop, mini donut with pink icing and velvet pie all included cochineal.
“The fact that crushed beetle carcasses were used in the production of these food items was not posted in the stores, not disclosed on the product containers or receipts, not announced by the staff, nor identified online,” the complaint states.
Use of the extract came to light after a Starbucks employee disclosed that the strawberries & crème frappuccino included cochineal.
In the ensuing “media frenzy,” Starbucks assured the public that it would stop using the bug dye, according to the complaint.
Anderson wants an apology and punitive damages.
He is represented by Jordan Lurie with Initiative Legal Group.