Natural is in, artificial is out

Earth Day turns 45.

Earth Day turns 45 today. Social media is barely a teenager. But the forces behind each are coming together to provoke change.

In Albany, the Assembly is due to vote Wednesday on a bill to ban microbeads from personal care products. Social media campaigns already have led many companies to say they’ll remove the tiny plastic pellets from product lines.

Nationally, a huge online petition campaign led to Kraft’s announcement this week that its iconic Macaroni & Cheese will no longer contain synthetic colors or artificial preservatives.

The message from the people is clear: Natural is in, artificial is out. The worlds of government and business need to catch up.

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Microbeads are plastic bits used as exfoliants in products ranging from face scrubs to toothpaste, and replaced such natural abrasives as crushed almonds and pumice. One tube of facial cleanser can have as many as 360,000 microbeads. Once they wash down our drains, they’re not filtered or broken down by treatment plants and end up in rivers and oceans. Then they absorb toxins, are eaten by fish and other aquatic life and enter the food chain.

The bill to ban microbeads should pass the Assembly, as it did last year before dying in the Senate. The Senate has a weaker version affecting fewer products. New Jersey has banned microbeads. So has Illinois. The Senate needs to get with the times and adopt the Assembly bill.

Nothing more clearly says the world is changing than the success of a social media campaign aimed at getting chemicals out of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Nothing says delicious chemical goodness like its unnatural orange hue.

A petition started in March 2013 by blogger “Food Babe” to get the dyes out drew 365,000 signatures. So starting in January, paprika, turmeric and the natural food coloring annatto will be used.

Folks who loved the product wanted to feed it to their children, but only if it wasn’t stuffed with chemicals. Kraft, in the most up-to-date way, replaced modern chemicals with ancient spices, hoping to keep old customers happy.

The Editorial Board