The same eye-catching colors that make “kid food” so appealing are also potentially to blame for childhood behavior problems like ADHD. Food dyes such as yellow 5 and red 40 have seeped their way into the news with the information that not only can these dyes cause behavior problems, but also potentially fatal diseases like cancer. Yet we still find them in a majority of packaged foods in every aisle of the grocery store. But why? Because they’re cheaper. Companies aren’t going to stop putting dyes in foods until they can be sure they can still bring in the same profit. So it’s a pretty big deal when a big company makes a move towards more natural ingredients. That’s exactly what Kraft did. They recently opted to start removing artificial food dyes from their notoriously bright orange mac and cheeses that are marketed towards kids starting next year. Instead of the dangerous dyes they plan to use colors derived from natural ingredients like turmeric, annatto, and paprika.
While this is a good move from a big company (that will hopefully lead to others following suit) it leaves one big gaping hole: they’re not removing the artificial dyes from the original version of the product; just from the ones geared towards kids. While there’s no denying this is a step in the right direction, why should adults be expected to continue eating the hazardous dyes when we are acknowledging they’re dangerous enough to remove from other products in the line? Kraft is also adding more whole grains and cutting back on sodium and saturated fat in their kids products. But where does this leave adults? Do we need to be eating dinosaur shaped pasta so that we can have the healthier option? One of the ways my husband and I try to instill healthy eating habits in our son is to have him eat the same thing as the whole family instead of preparing a special “kids meal” for him. It’s hard to encourage this when the adult option is now a less healthy option than the kids’ version. (Although I could also argue packaged mac and cheese isn’t the healthiest option no matter which way you spin it.)
So I agree this is a step in the right direction, but if you’re making such a big change, you might as well go all the way. I know it comes down to sales and marketing, but it’s the big companies that have the ability to start a wave of change and pave the way for everyone else.