A couple of North Carolina moms with extra time on their hands (and perhaps a little self-promoting to do) perused the ingredients list for that all-time favorite kids food, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and noticed that it contains the dyes Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which give it its distinctive cheesy-orange hue. Some studies have linked those particular dyes to cancer, so Lisa Leake (yes, really) and Vani Hari of Charlotte created an online petition on Change.org to urge Kraft to remove the artificial colors.
Apparently the dyes are not used very much in other countries. In the United Kingdom, for instance, where Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is called Cheesey Pasta, the dish gets its color from paprika and beta-carotene. Some European nations that allow the use of Yellow 5 require a warning label be placed on the package. In other countries, such as Norway and Austria, the fake dyes are banned completely. (Canada's fine with it, though.)
The moms, who hyperlink to their respective food blogs in the very first sentence, say on their petition:
“Here are the reasons we are asking Kraft to remove Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 from their Macaroni and Cheese.
Artificial food dyes…
– Are man-made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum (a crude oil product, which also happens to be used in gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar).
– Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are contaminated with known carcinogens (a.k.a. an agent directly involved in causing cancer).
– Cause an increase in hyperactivity in children.
– Have a negative impact on children's ability to learn.
– Have been linked to long-term health problems such as asthma, skin rashes, and migraines.”
Leake and Hari don't substantiate any of these claims, however.
“We carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold,” Kraft spokesperson Lynne Galia said in response to the petition. “So in the U.S., we only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food by the Food and Drug Administration.”
The moms — one of whom dubs herself “Food Babe” — fired back: “We commend Kraft for responding to our petition, but they are missing the bigger issue. Approximately 30 Kraft Macaroni & Cheese products still have dangerous artificial dyes and this is unfair to the children lured by these products (several packages showcase cartoon characters), unfair to the less fortunate who buy these products because they are cheaper, and unfair to the uneducated consumer that is unaware of these harmful ingredients.” The petition has about 57,000 signatures so far.
Honestly, moms? You might have a point. These dyes might be toxic as hell. But if you want to be taken seriously, you can't throw out unproven claims such as that these dyes cause everything from hyperactivity to skin rashes to cancer, and follow that up by making obnoxious remarks about how the “less fortunate” and “uneducated” are more likely to buy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Did you really think high-fat, high-sodium powdered “cheese” was good for your kids to begin with?
If you really want to freak yourselves out, maybe you should look into Crunch Berries and Red Dye 40.
And, just for the record, the blog name “Food Babe” makes us want to stick a fork in your eye right after we eat a big bowl of chemical-laden Kraft mac 'n' cheese.
And in somewhat related news:
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