Originally published on EWG’s EnviroBlog
Mars Inc., the multinational corporation that produces iconic candies such as M&Ms, Milky Way and Snickers, announced last week that it will phase out artificial colors from its products over the next five years.
Mars chief executive officer Grant F. Reid said the company made this market-changing decision in response to growing demand for natural ingredients in food, even though he insisted that artificial colors “pose no known risks to human health or safety.”
“Our consumers are the boss and we hear them,” Reid said. “If it’s the right thing to do for them, it’s the right thing to do for Mars.”
We at EWG welcome Mars’ move. We question Reid’s assertion that artificial colors and dyes are harmless. Some research studies show that they may affect the behavior and attention spans of children. Though these studies are not conclusive, parents have seen enough to worry – and Mars has responded responsibly by taking parents’ concerns seriously. Learn more in our Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.
The Mars move, which will involve 50 of the company’s food brands, follows the food industry’s “clean label” trend, in which industry leaders are abandoning artificial colors, dyes, flavors and preservatives. Other mega-companies, including Kraft Foods, Campbell’s Soup Co. and Nestle USA have pledged to make similar changes.
The announcement by Mars, best known for its sweets, comes just shy of Valentine’s Day, when Americans are projected to spend more than $1 billion on chocolate.
Wildly popular for its taste, chocolate may also offer health benefits. Studies suggest that a small amount of dark chocolate may contribute to heart health, cognitive health and improved mood, thanks to a class of antioxidants called flavanols also found in onions, curly kale, leeks, broccoli, blueberries, red wine and tea. Chocolate liquor and cocoa powder contain high concentrations of flavanols.
When it comes to a sweet treat, moderation is key. See how your favorite chocolates compare by searching EWG’s Food Scores.
Our top tips for choosing chocolates:
- Very dark chocolate, 60 percent cocoa or higher
- Little or no added sugar
- Nuts or fruits, as you like
- White chocolate, which doesn’t contain heart-healthy flavanols
- Chocolate whose label lists sugar as the first ingredient
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Artificial colors or flavors
- “Yogurt covered” candies, which are commonly made of sugar, partially hydrogenated or palm oils and artificial color – not yogurt
- Taza Chocolate, 95% Dark Stone Ground Wicked Dark
- Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolate
- Alter Eco, Organic Chocolate Dark Blackout
- Green & Black’s Organic, 85% Dark Cacao Bar
Dark chocolate with fruit or nuts: