Gigionthat.com has learned that Macaroni and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese contain high levels of potentially harmful chemicals called phthalates, according to a new study.
Phthalates, which can get into food from packaging and equipment used in manufacturing, have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children,The New York Times reported.
Researchers tested different cheese products and found that all 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese included in the study had high levels of phthalates, even those labeled as organic.
“The phthalate concentrations in powder from mac and cheese mixes were more than four times higher than in block cheese and other natural cheeses like shredded cheese, string cheese and cottage cheese," said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, one of four advocacy groups that funded the report, according to The Times.
The other groups were the Ecology Center, Healthy Babies Bright Futures and Safer States.
“Our belief is that (phthalates are) in every mac ‘n’ cheese product – you can’t shop your way out of the problem," Belliveau said.
He encouraged consumers to contact manufacturers and ask them to determine how phthalates are getting into their products and take action to prevent it. Nine of the cheese products tested were made by Kraft. Company officials did not respond to requests for comment on the study findings, The Times reported.
The U.S. government banned phthalates from children’s teething rings and rubber duck toys a decade ago.
In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
While phthalates is a huge class of chemicals and nowhere near every chemical in the class has been studied, several have been shown to have negative health impacts: butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP), dibutyl phthalate (DnBP), di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-butyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP), diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP), dipentyl phthalate (DPP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP), di-isohexyl phthalate, dicyclohexyl phthalate (DcHP), and di-isoheptyl phthalate.
Enough distinct phthalates have been studied to indicate that companies should proceed with caution when using any chemical in the phthalate class, particularly in products for pregnant women or young children, whom the research has indicated are the most vulnerable to the effects of phthalates.
One of the first phthalates to raise a red flag, DEHP, was replaced in hundreds of consumer products with DiNP, only for researchers to discover a few years later that exposure to DiNP is correlated to male genital birth defects and impaired reproductive function in adult males.