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Study Finds High Levels of Phthalates in Macaroni & Cheese

A recent study has found that macaroni and cheese products in the United States contain high levels of phthalates, a chemical that has been linked to reproductive problems in men and women and delayed childhood development .

The study, published in July 2017 by the Coalition for Safer Processing & Packaging (CSPP), found phthalates in almost every kind of processed, powdered and natural cheese the researchers tested.

The U.S. bans six types of phthalates from being used in children’s products, but these products do not include food products despite the fact that macaroni and cheese meals are often marketed for children.

The phthalates can be found on the Prop 65 list of chemicals that California companies are required to warn consumers about if they are found in products. Chemicals on the Prop 65 list are naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

What You Should Know About Phthalates

Phthalates is a term used to describe a family of industrial chemicals that have been tied to potential kidney, lung, liver and reproductive system damage in humans. They are added to many plastics to make them flexible, including common products used by children such as:

  • Lunchboxes
  • Binders
  • Backpacks
  • Storage cases
  • Rainwear
  • Footwear

While some of the highest levels of exposure to phthalates occur in medical devices made of flexible PVC, these chemicals may also be found in consumer products or even food. Many consumers make efforts to avoid using products with minimal phthalates when possible, which is why legislators have passed laws requiring companies to provide warnings about Prop 65 chemicals in their products.

Researchers for the CSPP tested, in total, 30 types of cheese made popular in 40 different products including processed, fresh and powdered cheese.

A minimum of 39 of those 40 products tested positive for phthalates and up to 10 different phthalates were identified.

The levels of phthalates found in powdered cheese, which is used to flavor macaroni and cheese products, came in at four times the level of phthalates found in natural hard cheese blocks and other types of natural cheese. The highest levels tested in these macaroni and cheese products came in at 2,500mg/kg while the average level of phthalates tested at more than 500 mg/kg. For reference, natural cheeses such as cottage cheese and string cheese had an average of 216 mg/kg of phthalates.

Researchers said the study was prompted by a 2014 review which found dairy products were the greatest source of dietary exposure to phthalates for women and children.

Phthalates are linked to reproductive problems, including an increased risk of fibroids, endometriosis and miscarriage for women, and reduced male fertility. They are also linked to lower IQ in children if exposed during pregnancy.

Even in products labelled organic, macaroni and cheese foods tested with high levels of phthalates.

Nine of the 10 products that were tested were created by Kraft, the biggest producer of macaroni and cheese products. Kraft products have more than three quarters of the macaroni and cheese market.

Phthalates have been associated with affecting the health of humans and disrupting hormones, particularly with reproductive problems. Lower IQ in children was also identified with phthalate exposure during pregnancy as well as reduced male fertility.

Phthalates are not added to food intentionally; rather, the study showed that the chemical leeches into food during packaging, preparation and processing, becoming an indirect food additive.

Phthalates and Prop 65

Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warnings to consumers if their products contain chemicals that can cause birth defects or other reproductive harm and/or cancer.

Consumers who purchased products containing Prop 65 chemicals that did not carry a warning can take legal action against the company.

If you purchased a product that did not contain a Prop 65 warning, or if you believe that you may have medical conditions tied to a company’s use of dangerous chemicals, including those outlined in Prop 65, contact the Prop 65 attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher now. You can receive a FREE case evaluation by filling out the form on this page.


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