Kids get a big kick out of food products that look like their favorite characters – and parents get the benefit of knowing before they serve their children a meal that it’s going to be eaten without protest. Unfortunately parents also know that most of the time the food products that are manufactured in the shapes of popular characters don’t often come with the most desirable ingredient lists. Artificial food colors are often included in the list of those ingredients.
The use of artificial food dyes in the American food supply is rampant and quite controversial – especially when those dyes are in children’s food products. The major food colors used in the U.S. are Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Blue 1. Each of these dyes has been linked to ADHD symptoms in children. Artificial colors are already banned in various countries. If they aren’t banned, many countries require the use of a warning label on the food containing the dye alerting consumers that consumption of the product may affect a child’s behavior. Nothing like this is currently required by the FDA and there are thousands and thousands of products in the use that use these dyes. Children are consuming those products every day.
According to a Kraft company spokesperson, Kraft is taking a step forward in the food coloring controversy. Beginning in 2014, Kraft has given its line of character-shaped macaroni and cheese a recipe makeover. Part of that makeover is that the product will now be using spices instead of artificial food coloring to give the pasta its famous orange-yellow hue.
In addition to the great news about the elimination of artificial colors, Kraft’s new recipe includes six additional grams of whole grains, a lower sodium level and reduced saturated fat content. The company acknowledges that this is a result of its customers communicating with them. Because of that communication, beginning in 2014, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are out of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese products in fun shapes like SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and How to Train Your Dragon 2.
While we’re all thrilled to hear that Kraft is making real improvements to some of its products, FoodFacts.com has to wonder why those changes aren’t being made to its classic elbow-shaped macaroni and cheese products as well. Since its new recipe that does not include artificial colors will work out fine for its character-shaped line, we’re pretty sure that same recipe can be used in those classic products without a problem.
When questioned about this, the company responded by saying that switching ingredients in products isn’t a simple task as they cannot alter the product consumers have come to expect. We don’t think that’s the best answer for a few reasons. In the first place the original SpongeBob Macaroni & Cheese didn’t taste any different than the classic Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Product. So if the new ingredients are acceptable in the character-shaped versions, they’ll be equally acceptable in the classic.
In addition, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that’s sold in Europe doesn’t contain artificial colors. For those products, paprika and beta-carotene impart color. Consumers are fine with it. We certainly hope that Kraft understands that we’d like to see every blue box it’s selling to consumers free from artificial colors. We’re pretty sure they’ll make their existing customers happy – and that they’ll find new customers who had previously avoided their products because of those artificial colors.