By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , November 1, 2013 - 10:45am
Yesterday Kraft announced that they'll be phasing out the use of Yellow 5 and 6 in some of their packaged mac-and-cheeses, specifically their character-shaped pastas (SpongeBob Squarepants, Halloween and winter shapes, plus two other new shapes) and instead will color them with spices such as paprika. (Their “original flavor” elbow-shaped macaroni won't be changed.)
Some say the switch was spurred by a Change.org  petition that garnered 348,000 signatures, though Kraft denies it. Regardless of what motivated the swap, it's great news!
Yellow 5 and 6 are two of the most commonly used synthetic food dyes and contain compounds that research has linked with cancer and that may cause allergic reactions in some people.
And, in 2011, the FDA said that although there isn't enough evidence to conclude that man-made food dyes cause behavioral changes in kids, there is some research that has associated food dyes with hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness in children.
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I’d encourage Kraft to make this change in other food products and would like to see other manufacturers follow their example. Unfortunately, there's still an abundance of fake food dyes in our food.
If you're concerned and are interested in cutting back on or cutting out synthetic food dyes, here are a few tips on what to look for at the grocery store:
1. Go Organic: Look for foods bearing the green-and-white USDA certified organic label, but be aware that foods labeled “made with organic ingredients” may still contain synthetic dyes.
2. Avoid Numbers: Man-made food dyes appear in ingredient lists as a color name (sometimes with a prefix, such as FD&C or D&C), with a number following it: Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6. Avoid these.
3. Seek Out Au Naturel Names: Check product ingredient lists for beet, carotenes, annatto or grape skin extract—all are natural colorants.
4. Don’t Be Fooled by the Term “Artificial.” Counterintuitively, the terms “artificial color,” “artificial color added” or “color added” indicate that nature-derived pigments were used, since synthetic dyes must be listed by their names.
One more thing: let's not lose sight of the bigger picture here. The easiest way to eliminate fake food dyes from your family's diet is to trade processed colored foods for naturally colorful, unprocessed foods, particularly because many foods with dyes also deliver excess calories and fat.
Do you avoid food dyes? Share your tips! Tell us what you think below.