November 9, 2013 @ Smithsonian
In place of Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, says CNN, some of Kraft’s mac and cheese products, come the new year, will be dyed with a beta-carotene concoction derived from achiote seeds. The change will apply to the company’s cartoon-inspired boxed meals, but not to the standard elbow macaroni line.
But the dye made from achiote seeds, known as annatto, says NPR, has its own history in the world of cheese making. Back in the 17th century, when cows were grass-fed grazers, beta-carotenes from the grass would work their way into the cheese giving it a “natural yellowish-orange pigment.”
This soft orange glow, says NPR, was a sign of a good, rich, fat-full cheese. But cheese producers looking to up their profits would often skim the cream from the cheese to sell separately and would lose the orange tint. So, they’d make up for it by dying the cheese orange with annatto.
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