Health Care

Does your favorite mac & cheese powder contain unsafe chemicals?

Does your favorite mac & cheese powder contain unsafe chemicals?

Cheese powders, like those used in packaged boxes of macaroni and cheese, had the highest levels of phthalates of all the different cheese products tested, more than doubling processed cheese which also had high levels of the toxin, and quadrupling so-called natural cheeses.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that some phthalates have a direct impact on the reproductive system of animals, they say that "the impact of low level exposure on humans is unknown" and that more research still needs to be done.

"The good news is that there are safer, affordable alternatives to phthalates", said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign director, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition member.

The chemicals, commonly referred to as plasticizers, are used in raincoats, personal care products, and other items to make them more flexible and harder to break. Mac and cheese have been one of the easy to cook and yummy to eat delicacies, but reports suggest that it might be a curse more than a blessing.

Nearly every person, especially kids and college students, can attest that they've lived on mac and cheese at various times in their life.

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Phthalates are not intentionally added to food, but are classified as indirect food additives by government agencies. The report called for further research to measure phthalate content in various food items and formulation of relevant policies to regulate and monitor the same in food products. High levels of exposure have been linked to fertility issues for both men and women, as well as behavioral and neurodevelopmental issues in children who are exposed to them in utero. When doing so, the level of phthalate in a package of powdered cheese was about twice the level in the natural cheeses, and similar to sliced cheese. Nine of 10 varieties that tested positive belonged to the mac and cheese supergiant, Kraft.

However, despite small amounts being detected in the products, a spokesperson for the Kraft Heinz Company assures the products are safe and no phthalates are added. "Our products are safe for consumers to enjoy". In contrast, the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has failed to take action in response to growing concerns and scientific consensus.

"Our belief is that (phthalates are) in every mac "n" cheese product - you can't shop your way out of the problem", Belliveau said.

The Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging has requested that Kraft identify and eliminate any sources of phthalates in the production of its cheese products, and use its leadership position to change the industry.