New York • Kraft is removing artificial preservatives from its most popular individually wrapped cheese slices, in the latest sign that companies are tweaking recipes as food labels come under greater scrutiny.
The change affects the company's Kraft Singles in the full-fat American and White American varieties, which Kraft says account for the majority of the brand's sales. Sorbic acid is being replaced by natamycin, which Kraft says is a "natural mold inhibitor."
Kraft's decision comes as a growing number of Americans pay closer attention to what they eat and try to stick to foods they feel are natural. That has prompted a number of food makers to change their recipes.
Last week, for instance, Subway said it was removing a chemical from its bread after a popular food blogger named Vani Hari started a petition noting the ingredient is also used in yoga mats.
The ingredient, azodicarbonamide, is an approved food additive and can be found in a wide variety of products, including those sold by McDonald's and Starbucks. But Hari said she targeted Subway because of its healthy food image.
Even though such ingredients are approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, being able to tout a product as being free of them can be a selling point. Kraft, for example, plans to begin airing TV ads near the end of February touting that its Kraft Singles cheese "begins with milk" and are now "made with no artificial preservatives."
The ads show cartoon cows grazing in a pasture, with a milk truck driving past.
The new Kraft packages, which began appearing on supermarket shelves in recent weeks, also come stamped with a red circle noting they have no artificial preservatives or flavors. Kraft says its cheese slices haven't used artificial flavors for many years, but that it just recently decided to advertise that aspect of the product.
"Consumers are looking for those less artificial cues and messages," said Gavin Schmidt, manager of cheese research and development at Kraft. "Those messages are more meaningful to consumers than they have been in the past."
Schmidt says the change took about five years to perfect because Kraft wanted to ensure the product's taste and shelf life remained the same. He declined to provide details, but said it wasn't as simple as swapping out an artificial preservative and replacing it with a natural one.
"There's a little more to it than that," he said.
Schmidt said Kraft is testing the removal of artificial preservatives from its other Kraft Singles varieties, but that it wanted to start with the most popular lines first. The changes do not affect Kraft Singles that are 2 percent milk, fat-free or other full-fat varieties.
Kraft Foods Group Inc., based in Northfield, Ill., also makes brands including Oscar Mayer, Jell-O, Planters and Maxwell House.
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Food companies are tweaking the ingredients they use in their products as consumers pay closer attention to what they eat. Here's a list of some recent changes:
Kraft Foods says it's removing artificial preservatives from its most popular varieties of "Singles" cheese slices. The company says the replacement of sorbic acid with natamycin is in response to consumer trends.
Subway said last week that it's in the process of removing a chemical called azodicarbonamide from its breads, even though the ingredient is approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and used widely in other products. The chain told the AP about the change after it had been targeted by food blogger Vani Hari over the ingredient on her website, FoodBabe.com.
Subway has not provided a timeline of when it expects the ingredient to be out of its supply chain.
Pizza Hut says it's in the process of removing dinner rolls served at select restaurants that contain azodicarbonamide. Spokesman Doug Terfehr says the chain's new head of research & development noticed the ingredient and decided to do away with it. He said the swapping out of the rolls should be complete in about three weeks.
Chick-fil-A said in December that it was making a number of changes to its recipes to remove high-fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings. The company had also been targeted by Hari but said its changes were in the works for several years.
Kraft said in October that it would remove artificial dyes from three varieties of macaroni and cheese that come in kid-friendly shapes. The company said the decision wasn't a response to a petition by Hari that had requested it stop using artificial dyes.
PepsiCo said early last year it was removing brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade. The company said the decision was a response to consumer demand in general, rather than a petition on Change.org by a Mississippi teenager that asked for the removal.