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Sheila E. once sang, “Yellow is a happening color if you’re a banana…”  Apparently, it’s also pretty happening for mac and cheese because Kraft doesn’t want to give it up—not completely anyway.  If you’re hanging out at Brown Bag, chances are that you’re looking for food that goes back to its basics—food that isn’t processed or crawling with chemicals—and tastes delicious, like you’d cook it at home.  Getting it fast to fit in with your hectic weekday schedule is a bonus, too.  So, we think you’ll be happy to hear that a change is being made by the folks over at Kraft Foods.  You know their famous Mac & Cheese?  Well, some of its incarnations aren’t going to be quite so yellow in 2014, but please pay attention to the word “some.”

Kraft has decided to listen to the call of parents everywhere for healthier food options for their kids.  In 2014, Kraft’s character line of products (such as Sponge Bob Square Pants Mac & Cheese, Halloween and winter shapes, as well as “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shaped pasta) will no longer contain Yellow No. 5 or Yellow No. 6 food dyes. Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 (as well as other food dyes) have come under fire in the last few years through links to all sorts of health and behavioral problems (ADHA, asthma, certain skin conditions and even cancer), but one condition has garnered a lot of attention: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Considering mac and cheese is commonly associated with foods that children like, it’s clear to see why parents of children with ADHD are concerned by a possible link.  There’s no research to indicate that food dyes or other additives cause ADHD (or any of the other above-mentioned conditions), but some studies do show that certain additives, like Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, increase hyperactive behavior in some children. 

The British government has recommended that most food manufacturers remove all artificial food dyes from their products, and foods containing these two dyes in Europe must include the following warning label: “This product may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”  While the US does require that Yellow No. 5 be clearly labeled on food packaging, it has no such labeling requirements on other additives.  The FDA’s food advisory committee does not accept a link between food colorings and ADHD because they say that there are no studies that clearly link the two.  But apparently, Kraft didn’t need proof to heed the wishes of parents. “Parents have told us that they would like fun Mac & Cheese varieties with the same great taste, but with improved nutrition,” said Lynne Galia, a company spokesperson for Kraft.  To that end, Kraft’s new, improved versions will contain 6 more grams of whole grains, be lower in sodium and saturated fats and will use spices instead of food dyes to get that orange-yellow color we all know.  Interesting, huh?

You may be wondering about Kraft’s iconic elbow shape Mac & Cheese, so we’ll tell you: Nothing’s changing there.  In Europe, the company decided to make that change—remove the food dyes and get the desired colors through the addition of paprika and beta carotene—but in the US company spokesperson, Galia, says, “Making ingredient changes isn’t as simple as it would seem.” Such double standards have caused one food blogger, Vani Hari, to start a petition on Change.org to try to get Kraft to remove Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 from all of their products. 

So, baby steps in the right direction, but steps all the same? Do you think Kraft will listen to the collective voices of people through a petition and make a change to their most popular mac and cheese product?  What do you think of artificial food dyes and food additives?  Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages!