Mac & Cheese Unhealthy For Children, Study Finds Toxic Chemicals

RIP your one comfort in this world

Several types of the chemical are banned in children's products, and Europe has banned most phthalates for plastics in contact with fatty foods, the report said, but the Food and Drug Administration has not banned their presence in foods in the United States. But they haven't been banned from foods, and The New York Times reports that phthalates may still be present in high concentration in macaroni-and-cheese products.

The highest concentrations of phthalates were found in boxed mac and cheese - the kind that comes with powdered cheese mix. Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, who studies phthalates, says there's a link between exposure to phthalates early in life (think prime mac and cheese consumption years) and neurodevelopmental and behavior problems in young children, such as aggression, hyperactivity and possible cognitive delays.

In the USA the federal government has banned phthalates from children's toys, but not from food.

The organization chose 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.

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

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Mac and cheese isn't just a childhood staple, it's an entire food group. Nine of the cheese products tested were made by Kraft, which makes most of the macaroni-and-cheese products sold, though the group did not disclose the names of specific products tested.

INSIDER contacted Kraft for comments but the company did not respond in time for publication.

While she stressed she did not knowingly eat Kraft products during her pregnancy, she said if she'd known the possibly damaging effects of phthalates, she would have done her best to avoid the chemicals while she was pregnant. Phthalates have previously also been linked to birth defects.

There is strong evidence that phthalates block the production of the hormone testosterone. And they particularly love to bind to fatty foods, like powdered cheese.

Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are often added to plastic or food to increase flexibility. They are industrial chemicals used to soften plastics and are used as solvents, in adhesives and in ink on packaging. Europe has already gotten rid of many phthalates in food production, so there's hope that maybe with enough recognition of the issue the US could follow suit. But as the Times points out, in 2014 the Consumer Product Safety Commission asked federal agencies to consider the chemicals' risks "with a view to supporting risk management steps".

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