Mac N Cheese to be less yellow

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When SpongeBob SquarePants skips onto shelves in boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese next year, he may be a little less, well, yellow than your kids are used to.

Kraft has revamped its character-shaped product line for 2014, according to company spokeswoman Lynne Galia. The new versions will have six additional grams of whole grains, be lower in sodium and saturated fat, and will use spices instead of artificial food dyes to recreate the pasta’s famous yellow-orange color.

The company will remove Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 from boxes containing pasta shaped like SpongeBob SquarePants and those with Halloween and winter shapes. Two new shapes of the popular pasta — Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” from Dreamworks — will also be free of food coloring, Galia said.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest hailed Kraft’s decision on Friday. Michael Jacobson, the center’s executive director, said he is pleased with the announcement but is “puzzled” as to why Kraft would not change its iconic elbow-shaped macaroni product as well.

“As Kraft has today shown, it is clearly possible to make macaroni and cheese without these harmful chemicals,” Jacobson said.

In Europe, foods with Yellow No. 5 are required to include a warning label that says, “This product may have adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Instead of adding this label on its products, Kraft chose to remove the artificial dyes from its European line, and uses paprika and beta-carotene to add color. The company has not make the same change in the United States.

Yellow No. 5 has been linked to hyperactivity, asthma, some skin conditions and cancer, but larger scientific studies have proved inconclusive.

The Food and Drug Administration must approve color additives in the United States; Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 were approved for use in foods in 1969 and 1986.