Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Tones Down the Neon Noodles

Photo:bookgrl/Flickr/Creative Commons License 

Ah, Kraft Mac & Cheese. That iconic blue box with the startling safety-orange noodles was a staple in nearly every American childhood. Somehow we deemed the processed powdered cheese to be normal, even if its color was achieved with artificial Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 dyes.

But now, Kraft has announced that starting early next year, it will begin to replace the dyes in three new products with natural colorants from spices like paprika, annatto and turmeric -- a novel idea, using food to color food! The new products are marketed toward kids and come in kid-friendly shapes, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Halloween-themed, and winter shapes. The shift is part of a continued rollout of products with natural colors or no colors added, including its "Organic," "Deluxe," and "Homestyle" varieties.

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According to this letter to consumers (PDF), die-hards of Kraft's Original Macaroni & Cheese need not fret, as that particular box remains unchanged because the company won't "make changes that would affect the taste." (Which leaves us to wonder ... what exactly do artificial dyes taste like?) But so far, 14 products are listed as being naturally colored or color-free.

Kraft denies that the move is in response to a Change.org petition (currently at 350,000-plus signatures and counting) demanding that the company remove the potentially dangerous dyes from its food products. After all, the UK version of Kraft's Mac & Cheese doesn't contain artificial dyes -- so why should it be any different stateside?

"We've been working on this relaunch for quite some time," company spokesperson Lynne Galia told NPR's The Salt. "It is completely in line with our company's ongoing effort to deliver better nutrition in our products."

Public pressure or not, let's hope the Big Cheez in Kraft Corporate continues this "ongoing effort" to tone down the Day-Glo and let cheese be itself.

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