Mars is one of many companies that use natural colorings in products they market in Europe but artificial dyes to color the same products in the United States. M&M's candies contain mostly natural dyes in Europe but feature Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, and Blue 1 and 2 in the U.S. version.
Nutrition labels should be clear, honest, and informative -- and reading one shouldn't require the skills of an NSA code-breaker. But too often, companies try to trick people into buying foods that aren't as healthy as the labels pretend.
Petroleum-derived colors are cheaper. Plain and simple. But they're not safe and they're completely unnecessary given modern sourcing and manufacturing. It's time to end this chapter of chemical history and say "the end" to these questionable hues.
The ingredient in question is carmine. It's a red dye extracted from the dried, pulverized bodies of the cochineal insect -- an unphotogenic arthropod native to Mexico and South America with a fondness for cactus. Dannon uses carmine in four flavors of Fruit on the Bottom yogurt.
"On occasions when they ask why they can't have Cheetos, Froot Loops or yogurt in a tube I tell them it's because these things aren't real food. They taste good, but they don't help their bodies grow strong or give them big muscles."
My daughter was allergic to Blue Dye #2... a common food dye that was an ingredient in the cereal and the two over-the-counter children medicines. Of course, we learned to avoid food dyes like the plague.
Packaged foods acquire long shelf lives when their chemical properties are manipulated so that bacteria cannot grow. While this gives a perception of safety and sterility, it actually means that ingredients of any quality can be used and the food will never go bad.
Is it too much to ask the FDA and the processed food companies for the same value to be placed on the lives of the American kids in their cost-benefit analyses as has been placed on the lives of kids in the UK?