Kraft Removes Yellow Dye From Mac & Cheese; Food Babe Army Claims Victory
When I was in elementary school, my favorite Crayola crayon was called Macaroni and Cheese. It wasn’t about the way it looked: It was a kind of milky orange-yellow, and it didn’t mix well with all the blacks and reds I used in my Transformers coloring books. But I really liked macaroni and cheese, especially the kind out of a box, so I would color that crayon down to its nub until our classroom art supplies were refurbished.
The inspiration for that color will soon be changing in a big way: Kraft recently announced that it would remove all artificial dyes and preservatives from its signature Macaroni & Cheese, effective January 2016. Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 will be replaced by all-natural annatto and paprika.
Kraft has been working to reduce the amount of additives in its food products since it announced in October 2013 that it was removing artificial preservatives from its American and White American Kraft Singles cheese slices. One month later, the company announced it was removing artificial coloring from its cartoon character–shaped macaroni and cheese products aimed at children.
Many credit the move away from artificial colors to the Change.org petition launched by blogger Vani Hari, better known as Food Babe. Launched in March 2013, the petition ended this April with 365,807 signatures and what Hari called a “confirmed victory.” Kraft executives insist it was not the Food Babe Army’s mobilization that spurred change but rather the average American’s demand for better food.
“We’ve met with families in their homes and watched them prepare Kraft Mac & Cheese in their kitchens,” said Triona Schmelter, vice president of marketing for meals, in a statement on Monday. “They told us they want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families—including everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients.”
It’s the same widespread consumer movement that has caused several giant food companies to simplify ingredients in recent years. General Mills, Frito-Lay, and Pepperidge Farms have also removed artificial food colorings from their products over the past five years.
“We applaud American consumers for speaking up and taking a stand to pressure manufacturers to clean up their food,” Heather White, executive director of the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “The announcement from Kraft should be a wake-up call for other food manufacturers to take notice, go back to the drawing board, reformulate their products and get rid of these synthetic ingredients of concern.”
Other companies have indeed been taking note. Nestlé announced in March that it would be removing all artificial food dyes from its candies, which would affect more than 75 products.
It remains to be seen if these changes will have any effect on sales of items like Kraft’s signature blue-box products. Furthermore, there’s no telling what the macaroni and cheese–colored crayon of the future will look like.