M&M's maker Mars Inc. will phase out artificial colors throughout its portfolio of foods over a five-year period, following several large food companies that have made similar changes amid a trend toward natural ingredients.
"Artificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety, but consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products," Mars said Friday.
Mars said it will work with suppliers on new ways to "maintain the vibrant, fun colors" that consumers expect.
The effort involves all of the company's "human food" brands, encompassing such products as Wrigley, Doublemint, Snickers, Twix and Uncle Ben's. Its pet-care brands include Pedigree and Iams.
Mars has more than $33 billion in annual sales.
Last year, Kraft Foods Group Inc. said it would stop using artificial preservatives or coloring in its Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in the U.S. in 2016.
Nestlé SA said in 2015 that it would remove artificial flavors and coloring from all candy products by year-end. A year ago, Hershey Co. said it would move to simpler ingredients, such as fresh milk from local farms.
General Mills Inc. spent years testing hundreds of combinations of fruits, vegetables and spices to replace the artificial food coloring in Trix. Still, they couldn't find matches for the neon-green or turquoise corn puffs in the multihued breakfast cereal.
Even though colorings such as Red 40 are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such ingredients have come under scrutiny in recent years as consumer advocacy groups argue that they have ill health effects.
--Annie Gasparro contributed to this article.
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