By Alanna Nuñez, Shape
When Vani Hari, who blogs at Food Babe, and Lisa Leake, of 100 Days of Real Food saw our recent story on 13 common ingredients that are banned in other countries but still legal and found in foods in the U.S., they were inspired to take a closer look at the problem and see how pervasive it really was.
They were shocked when they discovered that American staple Kraft Macaroni & Cheese—something most of us can remember enjoying at one point or another—contains food dyes yellow 5 and yellow 6, but that its British counterpart doesn’t. Used mainly for aesthetic reasons, artificial dyes have been linked to asthma, migraines, allergies, hyperactivity in children, and cancer. Because of more restrictive regulations, Kraft uses turmeric and paprika in its British products to achieve its iconic yellow color.
Compelled to take action, Hari and Leake called a friend in the U.K. and asked them to send a box so they could taste-test the two products. After concluding that there was “virtually no difference” between the two, they drafted a petition on Change.org asking Kraft to stop using the artificial colorings in its products.
“We both grew up eating this product,” Hari said in a video (below) that the two women included on their petition. “Lisa used to feed it to her kids, and it’s available in almost every grocery store in the country. We and our kids deserve the same safer version our friends overseas get.”
Hari told SHAPE that they’re not trying to tarnish the brand. “We’re just trying to drive home that these safer versions have already been formulated. They already exist.”
In only 36 hours, their petition went viral and garnered more than 170,000 signatures. Kraft is the second-biggest food company in the world, so Leake and Hari are hoping for a “domino” affect: if Kraft changes its policies, maybe other large multi-nationals will do the same.
In response, Kraft left a message on the petition stating that the safety and quality of its products is its highest priority and that the company has expanded its offerings of products with natural food colorings. However, as Leake and Hari pointed out to us, Kraft markets more than 30 products to children that still include artificial colorings and dyes.
“If the safety of their consumers is Kraft’s biggest priority, they should be willing to make that change,” Hari says.
This article was written by Alanna Nuñez and published in Shape on March 13, 2012.