Mom to Kraft: Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese

PHOTO: Food bloggers Lisa Leake and Vani Hari sampled Krafts Mac and Cheese; the American version has yellow food coloring and the UK one is additive free.
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Lisa Leake's children used to love the taste of Kraft's Mac & Cheese, the bright orange pasta that comes in the signature blue box. But she began to worry about the additives -- yellow dye 5 and yellow dye 6, which she says add nothing to the flavor and may be dangerous to kids' health.

Leake and fellow North Carolina food blogger Vani Hari did some investigating and found that Kraft makes the same Mac & Cheese for its consumers in the United Kingdom, but because of stricter rules regarding additives, it is dye-free.

There, Kraft uses natural beta carotene and paprika to make it almost the same color.

Leake and Hari say the yellow dye serves only "aesthetic purposes." They say they worry that food colorings have been associated with hyperactivity in children, allergies, migraine and, because yellow dyes are petroleum-based, maybe cancer.

Now the two women have posted a petition on Change.org, asking Kraft to offer Americans the same additive-free Mac & Cheese they sell in Europe. So far, the petition has 25,000 signatures and growing.

Leake, 35, and Hari, 33, taste-tested the two versions of Mac & Cheese and posted it on YouTube. They said they found "virtually no difference" in color or taste.

Leake said her children actually liked the U.K. version better.

"We know it could cause harm and doesn't add any benefit, so there is no reason to put it in there," said Leake, who writes the blog 100 Days of Real Food and whose daughters are 5 and 8. "Kraft has already formulated a version without it. We tasted it on camera and they taste the same."

The women wrote a letter to Kraft executives asking them to take the yellow dyes out of the American version.

Kraft spokesperson Lynne Galia responded to ABCNews.com in an email, saying that, "The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority and we take consumer concerns very seriously."

"We carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold," she said. "So in the U.S., we only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration."

Knowing that some Americans "prefer foods without certain ingredients," Kraft said it provides at least 14 other Mac & Cheese products without added colors and with natural food colors.

The yellow dyes have been banned in countries like Norway and Austria and are being phased out in the United Kingdom, according to the petition.

"We both grew up eating this product, Lisa used to feed it to her kids, and it's available at almost every grocery store across the country," said Hari in the petition. "Our kids deserve the same safer version that our friends get overseas."

Leake and Hari say in their petition that in addition to hyperactivity, these dyes can have a "negative impact on children's ability to learn."

Some countries require warning labels on products that contain color additives, according to Hari, who writes the blog Food Babe.. "That's the reason why companies are phasing out dyes," she said.

"[In the United States], we have this precautionary principle," she said. "We have to go through crazy, rigorous things to prove harm, rather than safety."

Both yellow dyes in question are fully legal and approved by the FDA, which is responsible for food safety. More than 3,000 additives are approved for food.

"Today, food and color additives are more strictly studied, regulated and monitored than at any other time in history," according to the FDA website on the topic.

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