© Marlene Ford / Alamy
June 22, 2017

An American dinner staple is changing. Kraft announced yesterday that they will be removing all artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from their Original Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, effective in January 2016. And though the change is definite, the reasons behind it are still being debated.

Kraft insists that the flavor of their mac and cheese—beloved by many kids and even some adults (Kurt Cobain famously loved the stuff)—won’t change. “[Consumers] told us they won’t compromise on the taste of their Mac & Cheese—and neither will we,” said Triona Schmelter, vice president of marketing, Meals at Kraft, in a statement. What will happen to the dish’s iconic bright orange color, however, is a bit more up in the air. The brand says that the synthetic colors that help make the pasta pop will be replaced with “those derived from natural sources like paprika, annatto and turmeric.”

Those food dyes are what put Kraft in this position to begin with. According to Food Navigator USA, debate has raged for nearly a decade about just how safe some artificial food colorings used in the boxed meal are. In 2007, a study at the University of Southampton suggested a link between six food dyes and hyperactivity in children. Two of those dyes, Yellow #5 and #6, are found in Kraft Mac & Cheese. This study resulted in warning labels in Europe, though the Food and Drug Administration decided similar warnings weren’t warranted and voted against adding them here in the States. Other groups, however, took up the cause—including Vani Hari, the media hound otherwise known as the Food Babe. Over the past two years, she gained over a third of a million signatures on a petition asking Kraft to stop using these exact dyes.

With Kraft’s announcement, Hari was quick to claim victory. Kraft, however, was just as quick to deny Food Babe was the culprit, claiming, “This initiative began more than three years ago.” And Hari was not alone in calling for these changes: The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA to ban these dyes altogether dating back to 2008. For their part, Kraft had started changing their recipes years earlier: The newly announced changes are to the “Original” mac and cheese, but Kraft began removing artificial dyes from other mac and cheese varieties as far back as 2013.

Regardless of why, Kraft have given themselves another eight months or so to get their new recipe in order. That means those of you out there who like to get your daily dose of artificial colors, you have eight months to stock up. Hopefully the artificial preservatives in the recipe will keep it safe in your cupboard for years to come.

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