Mac & Cheese gets a healthy makeover

Mac & Cheese gets a healthy makeover

It’s hard to imagine mac & cheese being any color besides the iconic bright yellow, but new concerns about the safety of the popular artificial color has Kraft changing recipes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve color additives. And the two used in Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, were approved for consumption more than  twenty years ago.

But there has been growing international worry about the health effects of these additives. In fact, over in Europe, a warning label is required for foods that contain Yellow No. 5.  The label reads, “This product may have adverse effects on activity and attention in children.”  The Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) issued a press release in June that stated “food dyes pose a rainbow of risks: cancer, hyperactivity, [and] allergic reactions.”

More recently American consumers have been more vocal about their concerns.  Vani Hari, a blogger on, started a petition to ask Kraft to remove artificial food dyes from their macaroni & cheese.  The petition provides explanations about why artificial dyes are harmful, including:

  • They are man-made using chemicals from petroleum.
  • They add no nutritional value to foods and are only used for aesthetic purposes.
  • They have been banned in countries, such as Norway and Austria, and are being phased out in the United Kingdom.

And just last week Kraft announced that five of its macaroni and cheese varieties will have a new recipe in 2014 including  the Halloween, winter and “SpongeBob SquarePants” pasta shaped noodles.  Instead of the well-known Yellow No.5 and Yellow No.6, the new recipe has six grams of whole grains, is lower in saturated fat and sodium and will get its color from spices such as paprika, annatto and turmeric.

Two new pastas made by the company;  Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2” will also exclude the dyes.

A Kraft spokesperson told the Associated Press the changes were not in response to the petition drive but were made to improve the products by adding more whole grains and less sodium and saturated fat.

Hari is pleased that Kraft is making changes in the five varieties, but believes more should be done such as changes to the company’s elbow shaped macaroni.  “These petitions can have a powerful influence on companies, so you should sign the petitions if you believe in the cause,” says Dr. Andrea Kane from Advocate BroMenn Medical Center.  “On a personal level, you can control the artificial food dyes you take in by limiting the amount of processed foods you eat.  Instead, focus on eating whole foods, which will give you the most vitamins, minerals and fiber.”


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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.