So no matter what brand of mac and cheese you buy in the US, you risk exposure to this chemical. Phthalates have previously also been linked to birth defects. The potentially harmful chemicals are used in plastics or packaging ink, so while they're not intentionally added to food, they can migrate into products via food processing equipment or packaging. "And fatty foods, including dairy products, tend to be the greatest contributor of dietary exposure to phthalates". "Significant levels" of phthalates were detected in all but one of the cheese products tested.
The most widely restricted phthalate - DEHP - was found more often and in a much higher concentration than the others in all cheese products tested.
The Kraft Heinz Co. holds 76 percent of the market share for boxed macaroni, so the Ecology Center is calling on the company to investigate its supply and processing systems in order to begin eliminating sources of phthalates in their products. However, more serious effects of phthalates remain to be a mystery, as human absorption and breakdown of DEHP varies greatly from that of mice and rats. One of our all-time favorites is that childhood staple, mac and cheese.
"We do not add phthalates to our products", Kraft spokesperson Lynne Galia said in an emailed statement. Also, never use the dishwasher to clean plastics.
"Parents and their children", Lehner said, "should not have to wait longer to know that their food does not contain toxic chemicals".
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not banned phthalates in food. The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging, a group of nonprofit organizations, released the research summary on the website #KleanUpKraft in time for National Macaroni and Cheese Day today.
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"The phthalate concentrations in powder from mac-and-cheese mixes were four times higher than in block cheese and other natural cheeses like shredded cheese, string cheese, and cottage cheese", Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, tells the Times.
Kraft has yet to respond to comment.
Previous research has linked phthalates to hormonal changes, obesity, thyroid abnormalities, and reduced sperm count and mobility.
"If you asked most scientists about the top 10 or 20 endocrine-disrupting chemicals they worry about, phthalates would be on that list", Patisaul said.
To avoid exposure to phthalates, families, particularly those with pregnant women and young children were urged to minimize their intake of processed food, eat more whole, fresh or frozen fruit, choose low-fat dairy products and limit the use of plastic utensils.
There is strong evidence, she said, on the effect of phthalates on testosterone.