Report: Your Macaroni And Cheese May Contain Harmful Chemicals Like Plastic

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Report: Your Macaroni And Cheese May Contain Harmful Chemicals Like Plastic
image © Pink Sherbet Photography – Wikipedia – lic. under CC BY 2.0

Macaroni and cheese is one of the most popular dishes in the world – but it’s especially loved in the USA. In fact, one-third of the U.S. population consumes the pasta meal at least once in any given 12-week period. Mac and cheese has remained on the list of America’s top ten comfort foods.

It’s therefore no surprise that food manufacturers have offered quick-and-easy versions which cut down on preparation time. The first boxed version of the food was introduced by Kraft in 1937. It sold an impressive nine million boxes during its first year and the Kraft Mac and Cheese is still being patronized by one million buyers every day.

However, this popularity might be affected by a July 2017 article published in The New York Times. [1] The NYT reported on a new scientific study carried out by an independent laboratory under the commission of environmental advocacy groups.

The researchers found high concentrations of toxic chemicals called phthalates in various cheese products. Phthalates are not deliberately added to food but can migrate into food products from the plastic packaging during processing, packaging, and preparation. Macaroni & cheese powder had the highest phthalates in products tested. [2] These potentially harmful chemicals had been banned from children’s teething rings and rubber duck toys a decade ago due to their link to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children. They also pose a risk to pregnant women and young children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2014 report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended the banning of phthalates or combinations of phthalates in children’s toys and childcare articles. The report warned that food, drugs, and beverages were the primary source of exposure to the toxic chemicals. [3]

Twenty-nine out of thirty varieties of cheese products researched contain phthalates, with ten different phthalates identified. Macaroni and cheese powder samples contain higher phthalates levels than blocks and other natural cheese. DEHP, the most restricted phthalate, was found most often in the highest amounts!

The investigation was prompted by a study published in the journal Environmental Health that identified dairy products as the greatest source of dietary exposure to DEHP for American infants, adolescents, and women of reproductive age. This study proposed further research to develop methods to reduce dietary phthalate exposures. [4]

The Flemish Institute for Technological Research in Belgium conducted the testing of cheese product items which represent several varieties and brands. Also included in the test were certified organic and conventional dairy products. The laboratory used validated test methods and quality control measures designed by a 2012 study reported in the journal Food and Chemical Technology. [5]

The Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging, an advocacy organization, funded the study which is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Health experts warned that the study’s findings should not be sensationalized, but they believe that the data presented offers another leaf on the link between hormone-disrupting chemicals and human health.

Despite the findings, the Kraft Heinz Company assures consumers that their products do not have phthalates. They stress that their products remain safe for consumers to enjoy.

Those who believe the scientific report could try making mac and cheese from scratch. Homemade mac and cheese is easy and is widely regarded to taste so much better.


[1] Roni Caryn Rabin. July 12, 2017. The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese.

[2] Testing Finds Industrial Chemical Phthalates in Cheese.

[3] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. July 2014. Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel on Phthalates and Phthalate Alternatives.

[4] Serrano SE et al. June 2, 2014. Phthalates and diet: a review of the food monitoring and epidemiology data.

[5] Fierens T et al. July 2012. Analysis of phthalates in food products and packaging materials sold on the Belgian market.

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