Consumer demand is driving food brands and major restaurant chains to leave out artificial additives and source their ingredients from sustainable, humane, and cleaner producers.

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DIET-related disease is a leading cause of death in America, and is already killing far more people than tobacco ever did. Consumption of highly processed food loaded with artificial additives is tightly correlated with skyrocketing rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke and other diseases.

Our current food system is killing us slowly — but surely — by filling us up like dumpsters with cheap chemicals to make food colorful, sweet, savory and last till eternity on the shelf.

While many food activists and media focus on the pros and cons of GMOs, the scarier story is that literally thousands of additives are allowed into our food and beverages with no requirement at all that they be tested for human safety.

A quieter but more important trend is under way. This year, Mars announced it is removing all of the artificial colors from its “human food portfolio” in the next five years. In a statement the company called the move a “massive undertaking,” spanning across 50 brands, including M&M’s, Uncle Ben’s and Skittles.

The decision by Mars to nix artificial flavors and colors follows other recent announcements from corporate food producers, including Kellogg, which will remove added colors and flavors from its cereal by 2018, and General Mills, which pledged to remove 90 percent of artificial ingredients from its cereal by 2017.

Imagine if artificial colors weren’t required to be listed on ingredient lists. Do we think food companies are taking them out just because they are concerned about our health? Food manufacturers follow consumer demand. Food companies aren’t dumping the junk because the government requires them to do so. In fact, U.S. policy is so lax that thousands of additives in our food and beverages have never been tested and determined to be safe for consumption, and many are not required to be revealed on ingredient lists.

More than 60 percent of Americans say the absence of artificial colors or flavors is important to their food-buying decisions.”

Informed consumers are driving change by voting with their dollars. Research by Nielsen found that more than 60 percent of Americans say the absence of artificial colors or flavors is important to their food-buying decisions. When we choose additive-free food and drinks, we can change not only what’s in the market but also how food is manufactured.

Thanks to consumer demand, more and more food brands and major restaurant chains are pulling out artificial additives or sourcing their ingredients from sustainable, humane and cleaner producers.

We’ve got to expand the fight for the right to know what’s in our food and demand full food and beverage labeling transparency. Restaurants are not required to disclose ingredients to consumers. The same is true for wine and beer, which can contain several additives, including high fructose corn syrup and foam-stabilizer chemicals.

Fully transparent food and drink labeling would cause our polluted food supply to self-correct by responding to demand. But labeling-requirement efforts have gotten hung up on the “third rail” issue of GMOs.

It’s time to move on from GMOs to the broader need for full food and drink labeling transparency.