Nearly All Boxed Mac and Cheese Contains Phthalates, New Study Shows

Nearly All Boxed Mac and Cheese Contains Phthalates, New Study Finds
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A new study of 30 cheese products including popular and organic boxed mac and cheese has found that all but one of them contain phthalates. These harmful chemicals have been shown to disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to behavioral problems in children.

“If you asked most scientists about the top 10 or 20 endocrine-disrupting chemicals they worry about, phthalates would be on that list,” Heather B. Patisaul, a professor of biological sciences at the Center for Human Health and the Environment at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, told the New York Times. “We have an enormous amount of data.”

DEHP, which Dr. Mercola calls one of the top six chemical threats to humans, was found more often and at a much higher average concentration than any other phthalate.

The study found that the highly processed cheese powders in boxed mac and cheese mixes, even organic boxed mac and cheese, contained the highest concentrations of these chemicals.

“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, along with the Ecology Center, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, and Safer States.

“Our belief is that it’s in every mac and cheese product — you can’t shop your way out of the problem,” Belliveau told the Times.

The new study was performed after a recent scientific review found that dairy products were the greatest source of dietary exposure to DEHP for infants and women of reproductive age.

Approximately two million boxes of mac and cheese are sold every day in the United States, according to 2013 data from Symphony/IRI Group.

Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to soften plastics and are found in food packaging. They then leech into foods, particularly fatty foods like cheese.

The FDA has not banned phthalates from contact with food. Environmental and food safety groups petitioned the FDA to remove all phthalates from food and food packaging last year, though the petition has been delayed for technical reasons.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.