Why You Shouldn’t Freak Out About Those Studies Claiming Powdered Mac & Cheese Has Harmful Chemicals

If powdered mac and cheese is your go-to comfort food, a new study detailed in The New York Times reports that your powdered mac and cheese might contain a chemical that could adversely affect your health. The study by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging found that phthalates, chemicals widely used in plastics, rubber, coatings, adhesives, sealants, printing inks, and fragrances, might indirectly be making its way into your powdered cheese.

According to the study, which reportedly has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and was paid for by environmental advocacy groups, average phthalate levels were more than four times higher in macaroni and cheese powders than in other hard or natural cheeses. The study concluded that “further research is needed on the phthalate levels in food and further action should be taken to eliminate phthalates in any food products.”  Though many brands offer powdered mac and cheese products, Kraft — maker of the country’s most recognizable powdered mac and cheese — released a statement to USA Today about the story through company spokesperson Lynne Galia: “We do not add phthalates to our products… 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.” Bustle has also reached out to Kraft for comment.

The testing mainly focused on cheese products because a recent scientific review concluded that dairy products were the greatest source of dietary exposure to the phthalates for infants and women of reproductive age, the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging reported.

Are Phthalates Harmful?

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The study noted that phthalates are not intentionally added to food, but can accidentally migrate to food during packaging, processing, and preparation. The organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families claimed that phthalate exposure can cause infertility, but other research has stated that more research is needed to fully understand what effect it has on humans. Several studies, including one published on Science Direct stated that question of how phthalates effect the endocrine system is “not yet in sight and remains to be answered with further studies.”

Additionally, a fact sheet from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention stated that some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals, but that more research is needed to assess the human…

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