There has been some exciting momentum lately in the food activists’ world. An online petition has been circulating in efforts to reach one of the giants in the food industry: Kraft. I don’t know about you, but I vacillate between euphoria and defeat when it comes to the daily battle of eating clean. I see all of the local food served in the restaurants and farmer’s markets and become excited that people are as passionate about eating a clean diet as I am, but then I go into my kid’s classroom, a supermarket or attend a friend’s birthday party and I feel alone. If this online petition succeeds and convinces one of the biggest players in the industry to remove harmful ingredients from its product line it would be a huge step forward, and what battle is more important than when talking about the health of our children?
The petition is simple and was started by Lisa Leake and Vani Hari, two popular food bloggers. It asks Kraft to remove yellow #5 and yellow #6 from their popular Kraft Macaroni and Cheese product line. The familiar blue and yellow box brings back comforting memories to most of us children of the 70s and 80s and continues to be a mainstay on the dinner table. In the U.S., artificial food dyes are often used in processed foods, sodas, ice cream, ketchup, meats, and candy (i.e. various kid-friendly foods). Many countries, such as Austria, Sweden and Japan, ban most food dyes and additives from their food supply. The United States bans very few food additives, even when evidence shows harmful effects on our (and our children’s) health. Yellow #5 has been linked to rashes, asthma, migraines, and hyperactivity in children. Yellow #6 has been shown to cause adrenal gland and liver tumors in animals. More alarmingly, small amounts of carcinogens are present in it. I don’t know about you, but the only safe level of carcinogens in my kid’s food is ZERO. With children still growing and developing, introducing them to these types of food dyes can have a serious, lasting effect on their growth and development.
Just how pervasive are these and other food additives in the American food supply? According to the non-partisan CSPI (Center for the Science in Public Interest), nearly 15 million pounds of food dyes are produced and added to our food supply each year. This is nearly 5 times more than was produced in 1955. If you aren’t familiar with the CPSI yet you should be. In my eyes, they take on some of the most important food battles when it comes to our health. They relentlessly pursue the FDA and other governmental agencies who turn their cheeks when confronted with the alarming evidence concerning the impact of food additives on our health.
The UK (who is in the process of phasing out artificial food dyes) also felt strongly about Kraft’s use of yellow #5 and yellow #6. In response to the British consumer outcry and demand, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese came out with a safer version of their popular product that no longer contains those dyes. Kraft also changed another popular product’s recipe to silence UK consumers; their version of our Nutri-Grain strawberry flavored cereal bars are now free of food dyes, using beetroot, paprika and annatto instead of red #40, yellow #6 and blue #1. If Kraft is already producing these safer (and just as tasty) products for the UK, why has it been such a struggle to get Kraft to supply the United States with those same products? Simple, we haven’t demanded loud enough. Sign the petition and pass it on. What is more important than the health of our children?!