Kraft Mac and Cheese: What’s in it?

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese used to be a staple in our house. I loved it, my kids and husband loved it and I have no idea why. It is super processed. Open the box with the package of mix to make the cheese “sauce” and you’ll wonder what is wrong with this picture. Cheese is supposed to be a solid, not a powder! Anyways, tasty as it is, I decided to take a look at the ingredients and see what all the buzz was about.

List of Ingredients (in the sauce):

  • Milk
  • Milkfat
  • Cheese culture
  • Salt
  • Sodium Tripolyphosphate
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Yellow 5
  • Yellow 6
  • Citric Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Enzymes

I did some research on the list of ingredients and they were so-so. I’m not sure about the quality of whey, milk protein concentrate, milk, milkfat, and cheese culture Kraft is using, but that is not what I want to focus on.

Here is the bad part of Kraft Mac and Cheese, of course I’m not including the stick of butter you have to put in it to actually make the product; it is the Yellow 5 . I am only recently aware of the power of dyes in foods, and I am shocked that a little coloring can do as much as it does! Here’s the break down (taken from

Yellow 5:

Yellow 5 is also known as tartrazine or E102. Yellow 5 is widely used in the making of potato chips, jams, candy, drinks and even pet food. It is also added to shampoo and other cosmetic products, as well as vitamins and certain medications. Yellow 5 is banned in Austria and Norway, and other European countries have issued warnings about their possible side effects. It is still freely and extensively used in the US, however.


Tartrazine can cause a variety of allergic reactions that vary from mild itching and skin rashes to serious allergy-like hypersensitivity. People who are allergic to aspirin have the strongest responses to Yellow 5. An early European study, published in 1998, showed that people who are allergic to aspirin are more likely to experience adverse reactions to yellow 5. This can include asthma attacks and bronchoconstriction or difficulty breathing.


Yellow 5 seems to cause hyperactivity in some children. The Food Standards Agency, FSA, which is UK’s equivalent to the FDA, issued a warning in 2008 about certain food colorings. The warning said that certain colorings, including tartrazine, can cause behavioral changes in children that included loss of concentration and impulsive, hard-to-control activity. The recommendation is to avoid or limit consumption of products that contain yellow 5. If a child develops hyperactive behavior, try eliminating this coloring from the diet and pay attention to the changes that follow.

Other Risks

Yellow 5 has been linked to a number of health problems, including blurred vision, migraines, fatigue and anxiety. It might also cause chromosomal damage, although this hasn’t been properly studied or documented

WHOA! Crazy, some little coloring can do this much! We have eliminated dyes in our house, not on purpose or intentionally, but bananas already come in a natural yellow color, and so do mangos. 😉 No need for dyes here!

Here is some more information on dyes:

CNN: Group urges band of 3 common dyes

CSPI Urges FDA to Ban Artificial Food dyes

FDA Probes Link Between Food dyes, Kids behavior




11 thoughts on “Kraft Mac and Cheese: What’s in it?

  1. Yuck! Of course, Candy Corn are my favorite candy, but with my corn intolerance, I can’t have them anymore.

    When my kids want Mac and Cheese, I turn to the Annies Gluten Free version. I wonder how this measures up to the Kraft Mac.

    • Good thoughts on checking out Annies! (although organic boxed junk foods is a major pet-peeve of mine…) Annies will atleast not have artifical colors in it! ….at least I think not….let me check this out.

    • Alrighty Rose, checked it out. Annies Mac and Cheese is “organic junk food.” It carries very little in the way of nutrition. The label advertises high protein and good source of this and that vitamin. All that means is they added vitamins to the powdering process. It is STILL very much a “boxed/processed food”….only made from organic products. OH and the label advertises “wheat pasta”….which ALL pasta is made from wheat, unless its an alternative type pasta. Sorry to come so down on Annies, but its all smoke and mirrors the way I see it. Sorry.

      • We don’t have it often. I think packaged and processed food is crap and therefore don’t buy it, but say we are going to Grandma’s. . . I try to have at least “healthy” processed crap available since Grandma isn’t going to changed. We use the Gluten Free (Rice Pasta) –


        It’s by no means GOOD for you. My kids are loving when I make anything with a pasta (rice or quinoa) mainly because it’s from scratch and so much better than the box 🙂

  2. I am not going to give up everything that you guys did, BUT this does make me so happy that we do not buy boxed Mac and Cheese. I make my own…with real cheese. I’m a real cheese snob now. 🙂

  3. Oh, here’s a question for you, if European countries can ban pointless food dyes in food, how do we get the US to do that? Food dyes are so pointless!

    • Laura, totally agree on food dyes and wondering why they dont ban them. But alas, this has been MY question with a lot of what the fda calls healthy. Not to get on a soap box here, but there is a reason the USA is the fattest and sickest country….

    • And you asked laura, how do we make a change. We make a change with our money. What you buy is a vote to that company to keep manufacturing a certain product. I mean, thats all you and I can do since we arent lobbying Washington or worth billions of dollars. Spread the word and makes others aware. I first heard about dyes from a blog and now I am passing it along. Eventually I think it will be banned here too. But its going to take people caring and taking the time to make a small stand.

  4. If you want scary consider this: the EU banned a number of dyes for European production, but if they export it to the US they can use the banned dyes. Snort.
    Stovetop mac n’ cheese is really easy to make – and tastes way better! And if you need a brighter color, a tiny pinch of ground turmeric does the trick 😉
    My oldest son (14) does whine periodically for say Annie’s (Kraft hasn’t been allowed in over 6 years), the toddler doesn’t know what it is. He is happy to eat Mommy’s m&c made with whole wheat or multigrain pasta!

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