Health Care

Potentially harmful chemicals found in mac and cheese brands

Potentially harmful chemicals found in mac and cheese brands

The substances, called phthalates - thought to affect hormones and metabolism - were banned from children's teething rings and rubber duck toys a decade ago. Late Thursday night, The NY Times reported that those powdered cheese packets found in your favorite boxes of mac contain high concentrations of phthalates, chemicals linked to hormone disruption, genital birth defects and learning and behavioral problems in older kids, and people are not taking the news well.

However, the cheese powder in boxed mac and cheese topped them all with phthalate levels four times higher than in hard cheese.

Devon Hill, a lawyer in Washington who has experience with companies that make phthalates, said many phthalates have been phased out of food processing and packaging, and those still in use result in very low exposures.

Boxed mac and cheese is a source of comfort food, but it's also a source of toxic chemicals called phthalates, according to food safety advocates.

"Our belief is that it's in every mac "n" cheese product - you can't shop your way out of the problem", said Belliveau. And they particularly love to bind to fatty foods, like powdered cheese.

While she stressed she did not knowingly eat Kraft products during her pregnancy, she said if she'd known the possibly damaging effects of phthalates, she would have done her best to avoid the chemicals while she was pregnant. A 2014 study said that dairy products were the largest contributor to phthalate exposure through the diet.

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Those are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can affect developing brains and alter thyroid function and sex hormones.

The tests revealed that phthalates are included in 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese, including eight out of nine Kraft products of this kind. Officials with Kraft did not respond to requests for comment on the report and its findings.

The study was conducted by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging which is basically a group of consumers, scientists, doctors, and health activists.

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration adds that the organization "continues to monitor literature and research on these compounds as it becomes available". They are industrial chemicals used to soften plastics and are used as solvents, in adhesives and in ink on packaging. In fact, phthalates were banned in some children's toys in the United States. Even more recently, the European Union took action to ban the chemicals in food contact materials.

The FDA is aware of phthalates in our food and considers them to be "indirect food additives".