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Trix cereals

General Mills nixes artificial colours and flavours

American food giant, General Mills, will strip artificial flavours and colours from the remaining 40% of its cereals that still contain them, the latest response by the US food industry to changing customer preferences.

“At General Mills cereals, we have been upgrading the nutrition and ingredients in our cereals for years to meet people’s needs and desires,” said Jim Murphy, president of the General Mills cereal division.

“We’ve continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals.”

General Mills plans to have more than 90% of its cereals portfolio free of artificial flavours and colours from artificial sources by the end of 2016.

Brands including Trix and Reese’s Puffs will be among the first of the remaining brands to change. Trix will now use ingredients like fruit and vegetable juices and spice extracts such as turmeric and annatto to achieve the red, yellow, orange, and purple colors. Reese’s Puffs will continue to use peanut butter and cocoa and incorporate natural vanilla flavour to achieve the same taste.

The company is following other food-producing giants, including Hershey’sNestle and Kraft, as well as restaurant chains like Taco BellSubway and Panera Bread.

Not all are welcoming the news with open mouths. The Washington Post cited experts who said General Mills’ changes are no more than a marketing ploy and offer few health benefits. The Atlantic seconded that, pointing out that the cereals will still be packed with sugar.

Elsewhere, NPR noted that artificial dyes have been flagged as potentially affecting children’s behaviour, although the effects are uncertain. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, consumption of artificial food colorings jumped fivefold between 1955 and 2010. Dyes Red 40 and Yellow 6 — both currently found in Trix — are among the most commonly used.

But the nostalgic and those who enjoy Red 40 can rejoice — not all companies are doing away with artificial ingredients. Just Born — maker of Peeps, Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales — told Confectionery News it is not planning to follow the trend and will keep using artificial ingredients. Such changes are too costly for smaller manufacturers to justify, the company said.

Caption: Trix cereals with artificial vs natural colours