Kraft Agrees to Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese
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A mommy blogger campaign to get the artificial yellow dye out of Kraft’s Mac and Cheese claimed a victory today after the company announced its plans to pull the coloring from at least three of its kid-friendly boxes in the United States and Canada.
The change doesn’t affect Kraft’s plain elbow-shaped macaroni and cheese with “original flavor,” according to the Associated Press. But it will affect its new recipes, which will available next year: SpongeBob SquarePants, Halloween and winter shapes. Two new shapes will also be added.
The new natural color will come from spices such as paprika, according to Triona Schmelter, Kraft Food Group Inc.’s vice president of marketing meals. It will also contain more whole grains and less sodium and saturated fat.
“We’ll continue to make improvement where we can,” Schmelter told the AP.
Company officials said, however, their decision was not in response to the petition that was launched on Change.org and has garnered more than 348,000 signatures.
Two North Carolina mothers, Lisa Leake and Vani Hari, launched the petition last March and confronted Kraft executives.
Leake, who writes the blog 100 Days of Real Food, said her children loved the taste of Mac and Cheese, but she worried about the additives — yellow dye 5 and yellow dye 6, which she said added nothing to the flavor and may be dangerous to kids’ health.
Hari, who blogs at Food Babe, did some investigating and found that Kraft makes the same Mac and Cheese for its consumers in the United Kingdom, but because of stricter rules regarding additives, it is dye-free. There, Kraft uses natural beta carotene and paprika to make it almost the same color.
Hari said she was inspired by Missouri teenager Sarah Kavanagh’s Change.org petition that pressured Gatorade to stop using brominated vegetable oil and Houston healthy food advocate Bettina Siegal’s Change.org petition to take “pink slime” out of school lunches.
The news from Kraft comes as another mom, Renee Shutters from New York, has launched a petition on Change.org calling on Mars to remove artificial dyes from M&M’s candy. It has gone viral, with more than 100,000 signatures, just in time for Halloween.
Leake, 35, and Hari, 32, contended the yellow dye serves only “aesthetic purposes” and worried that food colorings have been associated with hyperactivity in children, allergies, migraine and, because yellow dyes are petroleum-based, maybe cancer.
The women taste-tested the two versions of Mac and Cheese and posted it on YouTube. They said they found “virtually no difference” in color or taste. Leake said her children actually liked the U.K. version better.
Leake and Hari say in their petition that in addition to hyperactivity, these dyes can have a “negative impact on children’s ability to learn.”
Some countries require warning labels on products that contain color additives, according to Hari, who writes the blog Food Babe. “That’s the reason why companies are phasing out dyes,” she said.
In the United States, “we have this precautionary principle,” she said. “We have to go through crazy, rigorous things to prove harm, rather than safety.”
Both yellow dyes in question are fully legal and approved by the FDA, which is responsible for food safety. More than 3,000 additives are approved for food.
“Today, food and color additives are more strictly studied, regulated and monitored than at any other time in history,” the FDA states on its website about the topic.
To market a new food or color additive, a manufacturer or other sponsor must first petition the FDA for its approval. Since 1999, indirect additives have been approved by a pre-market notification process requiring the same data as was previously required by petition.
But Leake and Hari cite a 68-page report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks,” which outlines various studies on the health effects of food coloring.
The center was founded by scientists when consumer and environmental protection awareness was growing in 1971. It advocates for nutrition and health, food safety and alcohol policy.
The report was based on government studies from the National Toxicology Program and recommends removing yellow dye 6 from the market.
Both dyes used in the Kraft product contain benzidine 4-amino-buphenyl, a man-made product derived from petroleum. In a “too brief” mouse study, yellow dye 5 showed risks of hyperactivity in children, according to the report; yellow dye 6 was associated with adrenal and testicular tumors and no studies were done in utero.