When people think of macaroni and cheese, they may envision it being prepared by scratch; they get excited when they think of all the great ingredients like pasta, milk, butter, cream in some cases and, of course, cheese.
And when it comes to cheese, what’s not to like, especially when it comes in mounds of melted loveliness that’s evenly distributed throughout each firm yet succulent morsel of pasta.
Others who think of mac and cheese may conjure up an image of a rectangular cardboard box that holds smaller pieces of pasta, and buried inside that pasta, is a big, white, hard-to-tear-open-envelope that contains the powdered cheese.
Although the box kind of macaroni and cheese isn’t your mother's or grandmother's, it’ll do sometimes, especially among finicky little kids that only like consuming bright and fun-to-eat-foods that come in colorful boxes.
And what macaroni and cheese box is more colorful than Kraft's, with its dark blue and bright gold design?
In fact, what other macaroni and cheese brand even comes close to being in the mind of consumers when folks want the cheesy and gooey yellow stuff?
Meal in a box
Kraft Mac and Cheese or Kraft Dinner as it's otherwise known, came to the U.S. in the late 1930s and pretty much since then, the idea of combining uncooked pasta and powdered cheese in one package became a staple for many.
Today, it's clearly a staple for the mom and dad who need a quick meal idea, the latchkey kid who is home by himself and is able to microwave one of the smaller Kraft bowls for a meal and the college kid who receives boxes of Kraft in care packages form their parents, to help tide them over until they can get to the dining hall.
Well, that's all just dandy, but recently a couple of food bloggers created a Change.org petition and so far they have gathered 200,000 signatures in an effort to get Kraft to remove Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 food dye from its mac and cheese. The chemicals are what give the beloved dish its golden-colored pop.
So far, Kraft has removed these additives in certain European countries, but has failed to do the same here in the States, which has left food bloggers Lisa Leake and Vani Hari angry and ready to take on the mega-company.
Leake says it only took a little over a week to get the 220,000 signatures, which suggests that a lot of people have questions about why the food dyes were removed in other markets but not here in the United States.
“We have been surprised by the response,” said Leake in a published interview. “They don’t have to reformulate and re-invent the wheel. They just have to use the same formula that they do in the U.K.”
Hari says their petition isn’t just about getting Yellow #5 and 6 removed; it’s more about alerting consumers about what’s in one of their favorite food products.
“We wanted to educate the American consumer and let them know what is in their food,” she said. “We just picked an iconic food product to really get that message across.”
It’s not just Leake, Hari and the people who signed those petitions who are frustrated with Kraft. Tabitha, one of our readers from California, says she got ill when she ate one of the company’s hot dogs.
“A few weeks ago, I purchased a box of Kraft Weiners for myself and my two kids,” Tabitha wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review.
“I’m a single mother who barely gets by as it is; however, after I fed myself as well as my kids the product that I bought from Kraft, we all three were sick within that hour. I had to miss work, kids had to miss school, so I lost out on pay, and the mental condition I’m in didn’t help whatsoever.”
Nathan, another Californian, said he was misled by one of Kraft’s dessert products, since the wording on the package suggested that he could get a healthy dose of calcium, which turned out not to be true.
“I bought several packages of Jell-O brand instant pudding,” wrote Nathan in his posting. “I was enticed by the large word ‘Calci-Yum’ in the upper left corner. Beneath it said, ‘A good source of calcium as prepared.’”
“Foolishly, I assumed this meant that the actual pudding had calcium in it, but after I got home I realized that there literally is no calcium in this pudding mix and what they are actually advertising is the calcium that is found in milk.”
“That is extremely misleading and in addition I wasn’t even planning on making it with milk. Why should this product flaunt the trademarked term ‘Calci-YUM,' yet not even have any calcium in it? I think this is deliberate trickery,” Nathan wrote.
The way Kraft is able to get away with such confusing advertising is by not actually using the word "calcium." Many times a company simply changes the spelling of a word — as Kelloggs did with Froot Loops. No fruit in the loops? Well, who said there was?
It should be noted that food dyes Yellow #5 and #6, along with many other additives, are perfectly legal. Many are a necessary trade-off for the convenience of buying a meal in a box instead of making it from scratch, a point Kraft was quick to make.
“The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority and we take consumer concerns very seriously,” said a company spokesperson. “We carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold, so in the U.S. we only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the FDA.”