Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mac and Cheese under fire


CHARLOTTE, NC – Two North Carolina food bloggers have launched a petition calling on Kraft Foods to remove controversial artificial dyes Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 from its Macaroni and Cheese products.

Vani Hari and Lisa Leake grew concerned about the popular Kraft product after discovering that many countries ban the Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 artificial dyes and that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has linked the artificial colors to hyperactivity in children, migraines, and asthma.

"If an American company can take the time and expense to reformulate a safer food product for countries overseas, then I believe Americans deserve the same treatment," said Leake, a mother of two girls and creator of the "100 Days of Real Food" website. "It's rather shocking that we are still being fed ingredients, which are no longer used – and in some cases banned – elsewhere."

In Europe, foods that contain Yellow #5 are required to carry a warning label. The chemical has been completely banned in Norway and Austria. In the United Kingdom, Kraft's "Cheesey Pasta," the British version of the American Macaroni and Cheese product, doesn't contain artificial food dyes.

"After suffering some serious health issues, I became incredibly passionate about understanding what is in food – how it is grown, what chemicals are used in its production, and what eating food does or doesn't do for the body," said Hari, a popular food activist writer who has been featured in the New York Times and is a regular contributor to NBC's Charlotte Today. "I knew I needed to do something."

New signatures on Hari and Leake's petition are sent via email to Kraft Foods executives, including Noelle O'Mara, the marketing director for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. The company responded to Hari and Leake's petition on Wednesday.

"We know some people prefer foods without certain ingredients," said Lynne Galia, associate director with Kraft Corporate Affairs, in a written statement. "We now offer a multitude of products without added colors, as well as products with natural food colors."

"Approximately 30 Kraft Macaroni & Cheese products still have dangerous artificial dyes," the two bloggers wrote, "and this is unfair to the children lured by these products (several packages showcase cartoon characters), unfair to the less fortunate who buy these products because they are cheaper, and unfair to the uneducated consumer that is unaware of these harmful ingredients."

"We're seeing a trend on where health-conscious consumers are leveraging their social media savvy to change food products from some of the biggest companies in America," said Pulin Modi, senior campaigner at "Starbucks, Gatorade, and other companies have listened to consumer feedback and reformulated their products following prominent petitions, and it looks like Vani Hari and Lisa Leake may be adding Kraft to that list."

Check the live signature totals from Hari and Leake's petition: coverage of Lisa and Vani's campaign: