Boxed mac and cheese often means survival for tots and poor college students, but new research shows there may be harmful chemicals in the powdered cheese.
Lab tests revealed that toxic industrial chemicals, called phthalates, are found in 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese, including eight out of nine Kraft products. These phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that could cause reproductive and thyroid issues, as well as neurological problems in kids and unborn babies.
The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging believes that it’s actually a matter for the federal government to regulate and prohibit these chemicals, but “Trump’s Food and Drug Administration has yet to act,” said coalition member Peter Lehner in a statement.
So instead, the coalition looks to Kraft Heinz, makers of the classic blue box Kraft mac and cheese, to remove phthalates from their food. The organizers say that in addition to Kraft having the largest market for powdered cheese in the industry, they have also taken action in the past to make their foods safer based on scientific and consumer concerns.
Out of all 30 cheese products tested — 10 cheese powder, 5 sliced cheese and 15 natural cheese samples — 29 of them had phthalates. Powdered mac and cheese products had the highest amount of phthalates of all the types of cheese tested.
These chemicals aren’t knowingly added into foods, they’re accidental add-ons from contact materials during preparation, processing and packing. Regulating their infiltration of our food happens by making sure safer food processing and packaging methods are in place.
And it’s not that Kraft has changed their practices to be more dangerous, but rather that our understanding of these chemicals has advanced in recent years. A 2014 study said that dairy products were the largest contributor to phthalate exposure through the diet. Even more recently, the European Union took action to ban the chemicals in food contact materials.
“Parents and their children,” Lehner said, “should not have to wait longer to know that their food does not contain toxic chemicals. We are asking manufacturers to act now.”
Kraft has yet to respond to comment.