"Parents have told us that they would like fun Mac & Cheese varieties with the same great taste, but with improved nutrition," Galia said in an e-mail.
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. 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 a statement.
The company tries to offer a wide variety of choices to consumers, Galia responded. "Making ingredient changes isn't as simple as it would seem," she said. "All of the ingredients must work together to deliver the distinctive taste, appearance and texture consumers expect and love from Original Kraft Mac & Cheese. Our fans have made it clear they won't settle for anything less."
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.
That "double standard" is what convinced Food Babe blogger Vani Hari to start a Change.org petition to convince Kraft to remove these dyes from all of the company's products.
"We recently discovered that several American products are using harmful additives that are not used -- and in some cases banned -- in other countries," Hari wrote on the petition.
Yellow No. 5 has been linked to hyperactivity, asthma, some skin conditions and cancer, but larger scientific studies have proved inconclusive.
The FDA must approve color additives in the U.S.; Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 were approved for use in foods in 1969 and 1986, respectively.