Last year, Kraft pledged to remove synthetic food dyes, artificial flavors, and preservatives from its original macaroni and cheese, in response to consumer demand for fewer artificial ingredients.
This week, they're officially announcing that the product has been reformulated—and they're promising customers that they'll love it.
They're already right. Because in what they're calling the "world's largest blind taste test," Kraft actually put the reformulated macaroni and cheese on store shelves three months ago without saying a peep, just to see if anyone would notice. And apparently, nobody did (ingredient lists were changed but the changes weren't promoted on the front of the box).
The new formulation is free of artificial flavors and preservatives, and it gets its orange hue from paprika, annatto, and turmeric instead of Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. But beyond that, it remains the same.
No, the changes don't suddenly make Kraft Mac & Cheese a health food (it's still high in sodium and something I'd put in the 'occasional' category). But these changes are about something bigger. They're about customers speaking up and telling companies they want fewer artificial ingredients in their foods and drinks—and they're about companies like Kraft and Nestle listening. I hope this sends a message to other manufacturers that they can ditch artificial ingredients (even reformulating beloved, iconic products!) without losing customers.
After all, the fewer artificial ingredients in the food supply, the better—especially for kids. For me, synthetic food dyes are particularly worrisome for children. Some research shows that these dyes may worsen attention and behavior problems in some kids (read The Food Dye Blues). In the European Union, products that contain them even have to carry warning labels! Since there are natural, plant-based colors that can be used instead, there's simply no need for these faux chemicals in our food.
In the past three months, Kraft says they've sold 50 million boxes of the reformulated mac and cheese. That means millions of kids weren't exposed to food dyes, artificial colors, and preservatives in their bowls. Even if you don't buy the "blue box brand," I still think that's something to cheer about.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.