In an effort to please their Krustomers, Kraft's famed macaroni and cheese will be a little less blazing yellow come 2014. At least its SpongeBob SquarePants and other kid-friendly versions will.
In addition to replacing artificial food dyes with color-adding spices, the company also has revamped its character-shaped product line to have six additional grams of whole grain and be lower in sodium and saturated fat.
"Parents have told us that they would like fun Mac & Cheese varieties with the same great taste, but with improved nutrition," company spokeswoman Lynne Galia told CNN in an e-mail.
Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 will be removed from mac and cheese pasta shaped like SpongeBob, those with Halloween and winter shapes, and two new shapes: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and characters from How to Train Your Dragon 2.
However, you can still get the fake-yellow, full-fat, low-whole grain, high-salt version. Kraft isn't touching the recipe of its iconic elbow macaroni-shaped Mac & Cheese. Which "puzzles" Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"As Kraft has today shown, it is clearly possible to make macaroni and cheese without these harmful chemicals," he said in a statement. "I'm puzzled as to why Kraft would not make this change for the variety that kids likely consume the most: the standard elbow-macaroni-shaped version."
The company is trying to offer consumers choices, Galia responded. "All of the ingredients must work together to deliver the distinctive taste, appearance and texture consumers expect and love from Original KRAFT Mac & Cheese. Our fans have made it clear they won't settle for anything less." In other words: A lot of
college students people like the Day-Glo yellow-orange, fatty-salty version just the way it is. (Slogan: "You know you love it.")
The Food and Drug Administration approved Yellow No. 5 (which is made from petroleum) and Yellow No. 6 (a synthetic "coal tar") for use in foods in 1969 and 1986, respectively. Besides being less pleasingly garish, dyes made from natural ingredients like spices are more expensive.
In Europe, foods with Yellow No. 5 are required to include a warning label that says, "This product may have adverse effects on activity and attention in children." Instead of doing that, Kraft changed the formula for its European line, using paprika and beta-carotene to add color instead.
Several months ago, food blogger "Food Babe" (*rolling eyes*) Vani Hari started a Change.org petition asking Kraft to remove the dyes from all of its U.S. products as well. In the document, she claims that the dyes are "known carcinogens" that also "cause an increase in hyperactivity in children; have a negative impact on children's ability to learn; and have been linked to long-term health problems such as asthma, skin rashes, and migraines."
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Almost 350,000 people have signed her petition, which she delivered to Kraft headquarters in April.
We're fine with Kraft removing artificial dyes from all of their mac and cheese products. We're not big fans of the idea of eating crude oil products, either. But honestly, were you really expecting powdered cheese and cartoon-shaped pasta that comes in a box to be good for your kids?
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