One of the iconic foods of American childhood is becoming a bit less startlingly orange.
Kraft Foods plans to remove artificial food coloring from mac and cheese products that are marketed for children, starting early next year.
Company spokesperson Lynne Galia told The Salt that the artificial dyes will be replaced with colors from spices such as paprika, annatto and turmeric. But she denies this is a response to an online petition asking the company to stop using the dyes in mac and cheese.
"We've been working on this relaunch for quite some time," Galia says. "It is completely in line with our company's ongoing effort to deliver better nutrition in our products."
She points out Kraft will also add more whole grain to the "Shapes" products, which are marketed for children, and also reduce sodium and saturated fat.
This is part of a continued rollout of products with natural or no food coloring over several years, Galia says, naming 14 examples, including the "Organic," "Deluxe" and "Homestyle" varieties.
Vani Hari, a blogger in Charlotte, N.C., who started the petition, says she expected this move.
"Like a corporation, they're not going to say that it was because of us," Hari told The Salt. "They're going to try and act like they were planning to do it all along."
The Change.org petition called on Kraft to take artificial food dyes out of all mac and cheese products.
But fierce fans of that Day-Glo orange processed powdered cheese need not despair. Kraft will continue to use artificial dyes in the plain mac and cheese with "original flavor," according to The Associated Press.
Another petition on Change.org asks the candy company Mars to produce its iconic M&Ms without artificial dyes, which it claims can make children hyperactive.
There is growing evidence that artificial food coloring can affect a child's behavior, according to Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York. "On the other hand, these effects are relatively modest," he told NPR's Allison Aubrey.