Sure, ingredient labels often sound like gibberish to us, but This Dish is Veg recently pointed out that a certain red dye listed as "cochineal extract," is actually dried bodies of female insects. Ew.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "cochineal consists of the dried bodies of the female insect dactylopius coccus Costa." It is commonly used as a coloring dye, and in Starbucks drinks specifically, it is used in the strawberry flavor base.
So while some people are simply grossed out about using ground up insects to color their food (although really, people do eat whole insects), vegans are now realizing that their beloved soy strawberry smoothies and strawberries and cream frapps are no longer vegan.
The strawberry formula, one Starbucks barista reports, was changed about three or four weeks ago. Starbucks has responded, confirming that the strawberry formula isn't vegan, and while soy drinks are available at the Seattle-based chain, they "are unable to guarantee any drink is vegan due to the potential cross-contamination with other animal-derived products."
As for why they decided to move away from a vegan strawberry base (and include ground insects in their sugary drinks), "It helps us move away from artificial dyes," Starbucks says.
Update: Starbucks is now reviewing "alternative natural ingredients" for the cochineal extract in response to negative feedback from customers. The dye is also used in the birthday cake pop, mini doughnut with pink icing, and red velvet whoopie pies.
Starbucks president Cliff Burrows notes, "This commonly used ingredient is a natural, FDA-approved colorant found in a wide variety of food and beverage products in the U.S."