Everyone especially mothers who serve mac & Cheese to their fussy toddlers were in an uproar when a report found that packed mac & Cheese might be loaded with harmful chemicals.
Researchers from an independent lab tested 30 different types of cheese products contains phthalates (a man-made substance that interfere with the release of human hormones).
Phthalates were found majorly in the cheesy powder which is used to make the sauce for macaroni.
An advocacy organization paid for the testing named
The Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging.
There are two cautions though, this report wasn’t a journal that is reviewed by peers and it does not specify that how the levels found in mac and cheese are problematic as compared to reports in scientific articles.
The results should not be dramatized according to experts. The testing will help us to understand how hormone-disrupting chemicals are linked to human health.
According to Food and Drug Administration Phthalates are widely used in everyday products like food packaging, toys, personal care products, wall coverings and detergents.
FDA added that it is still not clear what effects do phthalates have on human beings. It is believed that a person using these chemicals in excess will have behavioral issues and brain developmental issues, lower IQ, Attention issues, hyperactivity and under developed social communication skills.
A study published in Environment International measured markers for phthalates in pregnant women’s urine and tested their children for developmental and behavioral issues. They have been linked to decreased thyroid function in females.
Why Are Phthalates Present in Mac and Cheese?
The manufacturers do not add this chemical to the products, it is imbedded into the packing material to repel moisture out and increase shelf life. As time goes by these chemicals leach into the cheese powder, Phthalates go into fat only, but there are various other products that contain fat so why cheese powder in the box?
Products that contain fat like milk and cheese have a shorter shelf life so there is very short time for these chemicals to seep into the fat. One the other hand boxed mac and cheese has a long shelf life providing sufficient amount of time for these chemicals to bind themselves with the food.
Kraft Heinz company which also manufactures Kraft Macaroni & Cheese said that phthalates are not infused to their products. The chemicals that go into food packaging are not regulated.
“The trace amounts that were reported in this limited study are more than 1,000 times lower than levels that scientific authorities have identified as acceptable,” said Lynne Galia, a company spokesperson for Kraft Heinz. “Our products are safe for consumers to enjoy.”
Till then parents should try to avoid the boxed macaroni and try to make it from scratch. Unprocessed cheese tested at the same time as the packaged cheese showed way lower levels of phthalates than packaged cheese.
It doesn’t mean that parents should stop using the box kind totally. The usage should be relatively limited.
“limit the use of the boxed products to those nights when it’s 8:30 PM and your kids haven’t eaten yet,” Factor-Litvak said.