Kraft’s “cheesiest” is under fire. Food bloggers Lisa Leake and Vani Hari have collected nearly 200,000 signatures on a petition to convince Kraft Foods Inc. to ditch the artificial food dyes in its childhood staple, Macaroni and Cheese.
The bloggers — Leake a mom of two and Hari an aunt — started their campaign after learning that Kraft makes its big seller with natural food coloring in the United Kingdom. The British version gets its bright yellow pop from natural beta carotene and paprika. The U.S. version is hued with artificial colors yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) and yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow).
Leake and Hari say those food dyes have been linked with an increase in hyperactivity in children, as found in a small study testing six artificial colors in the United Kingdom in 2007. The results of that study prompted the European Union to require warning labels on any food or nonalcoholic drink containing any those colors.
The bloggers (Leake runs 100 Days of Real Food and Hari writes Food Babe) maintain that artificial dyes in general have been associated with health problems such as asthma, skin rashes and migraines. “If an American company can take the time and expense to reformulate a safer, better food product for countries overseas then I believe we deserve the same here in the United States,” Leake tells Parenting.com. “It’s rather showing that we are still being fed ingredients that are no longer used — and in some cases banned — elsewhere due to safety concerns.”
Despite these assertions, some experts contend that artificial food dyes don’t pose a risk to the general population – especially in the small quantity that companies are allowed to use. “They’ve been really thoroughly tested and retested,” says certified nutritionist Julie Jones, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of nutrition of College of St. Catherine, St. Paul Campus. “Scientists put in an amazing amount of safety into the use of them.”
There are, however, two exceptions, Jones says: People with sensitivity to aspirin may have a reaction to yellow No. 5 and a small percentage of children with ADHD might do better without artificial food coloring.
So far, the bloggers’ petition has received more than 195,000 signatures. But Kraft is quick to point out that 14 of its macaroni cheese products in the United States contain natural food colors or no coloring at all. “The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority and we take consumer concerns very seriously,” says Kraft spokesperson Lynne Galia. “We only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Worried about artificial food dyes in general? Always check out ingredient lists and “avoid those numbers,” says Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Some might be safe, but there’s no point in subjecting children to the small added risk in foods that are generally pretty junky.” Want even more quality control over your mac and cheese? Make your own.
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