Potentially unsafe chemicals found in powdered mac and cheese mixes

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The report was collated by Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging who sent more than 30 different cheese products and a lot of them contained small amounts of this toxic chemical. A 2014 report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned of their health effects, especially in children and pregnant women.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence that it blocks production of testosterone as well.

Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to soften plastics and are found in food packaging.

The concentration of the chemicals in those products was four times higher than in other cheese products, Mike Belliveau, one of the researchers and the executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, told the Times.

Of the coalition's analysis of 30 cheese products, 10 were boxed macaroni and cheese powders, five were sliced cheese products, and the remaining 15 products were natural cheese products including hard, shredded, string and cottage cheeses. The test was conducted on a small sample size. Cheese products were tested for phthalate content as dairy products have been tied to being one of the greatest sources of direct exposure to phthalates (DEHP) in young children and women. The highest levels were found in processed cheese powder in boxed mac and cheese mixes which is four times more than in natural cheeses. To approximate a more realistic serving, the survey calculated levels of phthalates based on the fat content of each product.

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Of the 30 products tested, some were labeled organic.

These findings are bad news for Kraft Heinz, which owns 76% share of the boxed macaroni and cheese market.

When trying to estimate how many phthalates we consume and are exposed to overall, Jessie Buckley, assistant professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said it's not clear. Some products had up to 6 different kinds of phthalates present. While the United States government assessed the potential harm of phthalates over three years ago, recognizing the threat they pose particularly from exposures in food (among others), the Food and Drug Administration has done nothing to ban their use.

The study was published by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging, a group of consumers, doctors, scientists, and health advocates.

"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.

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