Ah, macaroni and cheese…this has long been considered by many as a great comfort food. Not only children adore the simple and tasty combination of hollow pasta and cheddar cheese, but adults of all ages. In its various forms it can be either cooked on a stove top, popped into a microwave, or stirred in a cup with boiling water, prepackaged for ultimate convenience. Its flavor has long been craved by students longing for both a taste of home and the ease of its preparation.
Yet lately there has been an outcry against the Kraft version of mac ‘n’ cheese—probably the most well-known variety of this ubiquitous staple of American kitchens. A group has formed to protest the use of dangerous ingredients in this food product. Aside from the fact that frankly, macaroni, like any pasta, is made of starch, which adds to the waistlines of many of its aficionados and raises the risk of diabetes, a threat has been noted concerning the food dyes added to the mix. Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, specifically, are part of the ingredients listed on packages of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the U.S. Yet these same dyes are not only not included in some other countries selling this same product, but are banned by those governments. The two food colorings have been found in other nations to be unsafe. Among the risks cited are cancer, migraines, allergic reactions, and hyperactivity.
Yellow dye #5, also called tartrazine, is a petroleum-based artificial color which has been found responsible for asthma attacks in those sensitive to this azo color. (Azo dyes are those consisting of certain compounds derived from the chemical diazene.) It is used extensively in a wide variety of foods, candies, medications, health and beauty products, and cosmetics in this country. It may also be used with artificial blue dyes to produce variations of green. Thyroid tumors, rashes, and behavioral problems including sleep disorders in children are among its other known side effects. The United Kingdom has plans to phase out its use. Norway and Austria had banned the use of azo dyes; however, the European Union has forced them to rescind their bans. Still other European nations, though, are issuing warnings to consumers concerning azo dyes’ effects.
The other color, Yellow #6, also called Sunset Yellow, is another azo compound dye used in the same ways as its companion, #5. It is sulfonated rather than petroleum based. It, too, has been found linked to hyperactivity, as well as genetic mutations, cancerous lesions, and even forms of blindness.
For some reason the Food and Drug Administration sees fit to permit the use of these two dyes in not only Kraft products but many others. Meanwhile, Kraft Foods has removed this ingredient from the varieties of its mac ‘n’ cheese sold in other countries. What message, the originators of the petition, Vani Hari and Lisa Leake, are asking, does that send the American consumers? Is it to be construed then, that we are not as important as those in other nations? Are our children—those most likely to eat Kraft products—less worthy of having their health protected? Does the FDA even care about the people it is supposed to protect?
Kraft’s representatives are quietly asserting that they are legally permitted by the FDA to use the dyes in question in their products for the American market. If, in other words, the great and wise FDA has decreed that ingredients considered dangerous for other nations’ consumers are just fine for Americans, then by all means, partake! It’s OK with our government if our kids (as well as adults) suffer from anything ranging from asthma to cancer. Just keep on buying the stuff and shut up, in other words.
Here is the link to the petition requesting removal of Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 from Kraft Macaroni and Cheese products sold in the U.S.:
Also, this link to a PDF file will provide more information on the hazards associated with various food dyes: