No one knows better than I the tremendous potential power of an online petition to bring about needed changes in our food supply. And now, just a day after the one-year anniversary of the launch of my “pink slime in school food” petition, it’s gratifying to report that two important new food petitions are catching fire.
Natural Food Dyes Overseas, Artificial Dyes Over Here
First, as you already know if you’re a follower of TLT’s Facebook page, Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food and Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, have just launched a Change.org petition asking Kraft to ditch two artificial yellow food dyes in its iconic mac n’ cheese product, dyes the company has already abandoned overseas in favor of natural food-based colorants. This is an issue we’ve discussed in the past on The Lunch Tray and it has always bothered me a great deal — in fact, I even mentioned in one post that I hoped someone would start a petition about it! It’s one thing for a company to protest that it can’t find a way to change its formula in favor of more healthful ingredients, but it’s quite another thing when the company has already amply demonstrated the ability to do so.
Well, the good news is that many of you clearly feel the same way. In less than two full days, the petition (as of this writing) has garnered almost 50,000 signatures and is starting to get some media coverage. Even if you’re not a consumer of this particular Kraft product (I’ve never bought a box), you can be sure that, if successful, this petition will get the attention of other multinational food corporations engaging in the same practices with respect to food dyes. So please take a moment and sign here.
And for some encouraging news about the growing use of natural versus artificial food dyes worldwide, please take a look at TLT friend Robyn O’Brien’s latest column on that topic.
Aspartame and Milk Products, Including School Cafeteria Flavored Milk
The Lunch Tray was apparently one of the first outlets to report last month on a new dairy industry plan to add aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to milk and 17 other dairy products without the prominent front label disclosures (“reduced sugar,” “diet,” “reduced calorie,” etc.) presently required by the FDA.
This idea deeply troubles me as a consumer, as few of us expect to find artificial sweeteners in such products and are therefore less likely, without a front label cue, to search the ingredient listings for them.
But far more importantly, this plan upsets me as a parent of public school kids. As I reported last week, over 430 million gallons of milk were distributed in American schools in2005-2006, and much of that milk is flavored. The dairy industry apparently feels that the “reduced calorie” designation is a turn-off for kids and so far it hasn’t been particularly aggressive in marketing artificially
flavored sweetened milk. But if FDA grants the industry’s request to drop the front-label descriptor, it seems likely that aspartame-containing flavored milk will be in schools everywhere and without parental oversight (how many parents are in the lunch room to read the ingredient listing on their kid’s milk carton?).
Totally apart from questions about the safety of asparatame, there are legitimate reasons (outlined in my prior post) to be concerned about offering it on a widespread basis to American school children. If you share that concern, please join almost 100,000 people who’ve already signed a petition launched by Sum of Us protesting the dairy industry’s request. (In my opinion, this petition isn’t ideal: the real issue here is not the use of aspartame in milk per se, something already permitted by law, but the lack of front labeling disclosure. The petition fails to make this distinction but, still, it gets the point across to FDA and that’s what matters.)
I’ll keep you posted on the progress of these two petitions as warranted. In the meantime, please also consider reposting these two petition links on your own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to spread the word.
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