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Starbucks admits using dye from bugs

By Cong Mu (Global Times)

08:07, April 23, 2012

US cafe chain Starbucks' Chinese subsidiary yesterday admitted they have used cochineal, a bug-based red dye, in a few food products in their cafes in China.

Starbucks China also said that they had not sold any beverage containing cochineal in China, and a new strawberry and soy milk frappuccino they are going to launch will use a red colorant that meets the Chinese food safety standard, Beijing Evening News reported yesterday.

The announcement came after 7,500 American consumer rights activists forced the NASDAQ-listed company to stop using cochineal, or carmine, a red dye made from the dried bodies of female cochineal insects, in its strawberry-flavored drinks in the US last week.

The news was soon picked up by the Chinese media, at a time when food and drug safety issues are racking people's nerves.

Media reported last week that a large number of Chinese pharmaceutical companies had made capsules containing excessive chromium, resulting from a toxic industrial chemical additive.

A female shop assistant surnamed Sun in a Starbucks store in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, said the store did sell a strawberry frappuccino last summer, but stopped after the season was over, Jinling Evening News reported.

Starbucks operates over 570 cafes across 48 Chinese cities, opening on average one cafe every four days.

Wang Xinrong, spokesperson for Starbucks Greater China, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"Companies as for-profit entities are unlikely to voluntarily fulfill their social responsibilities completely," Liu Baocheng, director of the Center for International Business Ethics at University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mao Zhenhua, chairman of China Chengxin International Credit Rating Co, told a CSR forum in Wuhan yesterday that consumers had the responsibility of punishing companies having lost their credibility through a boycott of their products.

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