Oh no! Mac and cheese may contain harmful chemicals

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The organization made a decision to test cheese products after a 2014 study found that dairy products were the greatest source of dietary exposure to the phthalate DEHP for children and women of reproductive age.

The highest levels of the concentration of the chemical were found in boxed mac and cheese.

Researchers tested 30 cheese products and found phthalates in 29 of them; in powdered cheese, phthalate amounts were four times higher than in other cheese products.

The report, which was funded by four advocacy groups, looks at chemicals called phthalates, which are used to soften plastics and have been banned from baby teethers and bottles due to health concerns. "Secondly, it appeared the more processed cheese products had an average higher phthalate (concentration)", said Gillian Miller, senior scientist at the Ecology Center.

Because of this potential danger, the food safety coalition is calling for Kraft to remove all phthalates from their products, but that could be a pretty big challenge.

Phthalates are chemicals commonly used in plastic products to help make them softer.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign director Mike Schade said in a statement, "The good news is that there are safer, affordable alternatives to phthalates".

"Our belief is that it's in every mac 'n" cheese product - you can't shop your way out of the problem, ' he said.

Lab tests of 10 different varieties of macaroni and cheese have revealed toxic industrial chemicals known as phthalates. Kraft didn't respond to a request for comment on the study from The New York Times.

"But contrary to the numerous articles that have reported on this press release, the presence of phthalates in food can not be equated to the presence of risk!" he adds.

They can disrupt the hormones in the body and could affect the brains of developing children.

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Although the study was only conducted in men, the researchers expect similar outcomes to be true for women.

Past research has linked phthalates to health issues including hormone disruption and lower sperm count.

"We do not add phthalates to our products".

A study from Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany found that phthalates can interfere with metabolism and pave the way for weight gain. The study has also claimed that it may pose very serious risks to pregnant women and young children.

What are phthlates and how do they get into foods?

Phthalates, according to the study, are widely used in plastics, rubber, coatings, adhesives, sealants, printing inks, and fragrance.

While phthalates aren't added directly into foods, they usually become "indirect" food additives during processing, packaging, and preparation and tend to be found at higher levels in highly processed or fatty foods. Also, never use the dishwasher to clean plastics.

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to ban the chemicals from food, where researchers have found it's most risky to children.

More often, phthalates are absorbed through the skin via direct contact or by eating and drinking food products that have been in contact with phthalates.

That may partially explain why a 2014 scientific review concluded that "dairy products were the greatest source of dietary exposure to the phthalate DEHP for infants and women of reproductive age".

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