Commentary

Kraft, Senate Bill On Cosmetics Address Ingredients For Change

As consumers increasingly demand to know exactly what goes into — and on — their bodies, both lawmakers and individual marketers are responding with an alacrity not seen in seven or eight decades.

Kraft yesterday said that it would eliminate artificial ingredients and synthetic dyes from its Macaroni & Cheese starting in January even as a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate that, if passed, will require the Food and Drug Administration to increase its oversight over the ingredients used in cosmetics and personal-care products.

“Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the bill's sponsors, said that federal regulations of the ingredients in cosmetics and personal-care products haven't been updated for 75 years,” reports the AP’s Kevin Freking.

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The bill has “support from a wide array of consumer groups and companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Revlon and Proctor & Gamble” as well as “a trade association representing more than 600 companies,” Freking points out. It also has the backing of the activist Environmental Working Group, which points out in a release that the bill “would require the FDA to investigate five potentially risky ingredients each year.”

The legislation also requires that marketers “report ‘serious’ adverse health effects they receive from consumers — reactions to products that result in death, disfigurement, or hospitalization, for example — within 15 business days,” reports Rachel Abrams in The New York Times. “Companies must report all non-serious events — like a rash — in an annual report.”

Meanwhile, “almost 80 years after its invention,” writes Michael E. Miller for the Washington Post, and “under pressure from ‘healthier’ competitors and a controversial food blogger,” Kraft “is stripping all artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from its most iconic item.

“Faced with rival brands boasting 'organic' and 'all natural' labels, as well as greater public awareness about nutrition, the international food giant claimed it has been considering cutting out the artificial ingredients in its Mac & Cheese for some time,” Miller says.

Indeed, Kraft announced in November 2013 that it “[planned] to remove artificial dyes from three macaroni and cheese varieties that come in kid-friendly shapes,” as we reported at the time, while denying that the decision had anything to do with a petition on Change.org to started by Food Babe Vani Hari — the “controversial blogger” cited by Miller — that wound up with more than 367,000 signatures. 

“We've met with families in their homes and watched them prepare Kraft Mac & Cheese in their kitchens. They told us they want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families, including everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients,” Triona Schmelter, Kraft’s VP of marketing, meals, says in a release. “They also told us they won't compromise on the taste of their Mac & Cheese — and neither will we. That's why we've been working tirelessly to find the right recipe that our fans will love.”

Speaking of Hari — even if Schmelter won’t — she herself is in the midst of both a flurry of coverage following the February publication of her book — The Food Babe Way: Break Free From the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days” — as well as controversy following the posting on Gawker of a takedown by “Science Babe” blogger Yvette d'Entremont. 

“Between her egregious abuse of the word ‘toxin’ anytime there's a chemical she can't pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it's hard to pinpoint her biggest sin,” d'Entremont, who has a masters in forensic science and worked as an analytical chemist, writes.

In the end, Hari’s book is a “mixed bag,” according to Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz, a nutritionist, in a review for the Charlotte Observer. “There were times while reading this book that I wanted to say out loud, ‘You go, girl.’ There were others that made me say, ‘Stop being such a drama queen.’”

Meanwhile, Dr. Oz, the scourge of GMO foods, booster of the Food Babe, target of the Science Babe and the subject of a nasty letter by some of his colleagues at the Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons that calls for his dismissal from the faculty for showing “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” is reportedly preparing an aggressive response to the latter that will be aired on Thursday, reports Sydney Ember in the New York Times.

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