WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA.com/AP) — Kraft Foods says it plans to remove artificial dyes from three macaroni and cheese varieties that come in kid-friendly shapes, a move that comes as people increasingly reach for foods they feel are natural.

The change doesn’t affect Kraft’s plain elbow-shaped macaroni and cheese with “original flavor.”

Kraft’s new recipes, which begin shipping early next year, will be for its macaroni and cheese varieties that come in the SpongeBob Squarepants, Halloween and winter shapes. Two new shapes will also be added.

The company said it plans to replace the artificial dyes with spices such as paprika for coloring.

The mac ‘n’ cheese varieties are wildly popular with some children, such as Karen Basile’s son.

“It makes my son happy,” Basile, of Woodland Hills, told CBS2’s Brittney Hopper.  “He’s obsessed with it. He could eat it every single day. He almost does eat it every single day.”

Basile said she’s glad Kraft is taking out yellow dyes number 5 and 6 from its ingredients. But does that go far enough?

Dr. Michael Hirt, an internist, says food colorings such as yellow number 5 and 6 can cause a number of health problems in both children and adults. He told Hopper the company should make more changes.

“If you’re going to do it, take it out wherever it is because it’s bad in any box that’s on someone’s shelf,” Hirt told Hopper.

Ingredients in packaged food have come under greater scrutiny in recent years. People are increasingly trying to eat foods they feel are better for them, and big food makers are adjusting their offerings to keep pace.

In the meantime, smaller players such as Annie’s Homegrown Inc., which makes a variety of macaroni and cheese, are getting more shelf space at the supermarket.

Kraft said the revamped recipes aren’t a response to a petition on Change.org that asked it to remove artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese kits. That petition, which was posted in March, had more than 348,000 signatures on Thursday.

Triona Schmelter, Kraft Food Group Inc.’s vice president of marketing for meals, said the company was looking to improve the nutritional profiles of the three macaroni and cheese varieties more broadly. The new recipes will also add whole grains and reduce the amount of sodium and saturated fat, she said.

She declined to specify whether Kraft would eventually make similar changes to its other macaroni and cheese lines. But she noted the company already offers options that only use natural colors, such as several of its “Homestyle” varieties.

“We’ll continue to make improvement where we can,” Schmelter said, noting that the company tries to cater to evolving customer preferences.


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