Almost every person can say that they’ve lived on mac and cheese at different times in their life. This apparently innocent food choice (and I use the word food here quite loosely as it barely resembles food) may be a lot more dangerous that is thought about it, new independent laboratory research conducted by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging has discovered.
The laboratory examined 30 different cheese products, varying from cheese powder to processed cheese, as well as hard, shredded, string and cottage cheese. They discovered extremely high levels of phthalates in 29 of the 30 types tested. Cheese powders, similar to those used in boxes of instant macaroni and cheese, had the maximum levels of phthalates of all the different cheese products tested, more than doubling processed cheese which also contained a very high level of the toxin, and quadrupling so-called natural cheeses.
Even processed cheese slices had three times the number of phthalates than the products presented as natural cheeses, which also had excessive amounts of phthalates. Taking into account that around 2 million boxes of mac and cheese were sold in 2013 alone, the harm these chemicals may be causing is clearly widespread. Some products contained up to 6 different kinds of phthalates. Kraft produced 9 of the 30 products tested; officials at the company gave no response on the test results, according to news reports by the New York Times. A search on phthalates on Kraft’s website yielded no results.
ALSO READ: 6 Ayurvedic foods that you should include in your daily diet for well-being and longevity
Phthalates (pronounced “thallets”) are chemicals obtained from petrochemicals that are usually added to plastics to make them soft and pliable. Unfortunately, they are usually found in plastic toys, shower curtains, vinyl floors, plastic food containers, air fresheners, pharmaceutical drugs, cosmetics, insecticides, nail polish, hair spray and even baby care products. The science-based policy and advocacy group Breast Cancer Prevention Partners say that phthalates are related to breast cancer, asthma, decreased fertility, obesity and developmental disorders.
Some medications are covered in a type of phthalate known as di-n-butyl-phthalate. They are part of the “dirty dozen toxins” found in most skincare products. While smearing phthalates on your skin or eating pills coated in them is certainly not tempting eating them through our food products is worse, particularly because these foods are eaten in high volumes by children, whose developing bodies and brains are even more susceptible than our adult bodies.
Eleven health and environmental advocacy groups appealed the FDA to bar phthalates from food, food packaging, processing and manufacturing equipment but it was of no use. While the United States government studied the potential damage caused by phthalates over three years ago, identifying the danger they present specifically from exposures in food (among others), the Food and Drug Administration has not banned their use. There is no importance in a report that simply gathers dust on the shelves, desks and even minds of bureaucrats.
Phthalates and other chemicals are derived from petrochemicals cannot be used in running our vehicles. Instead, they have invaded our food, personal care products and toys when the oil and gas, which is a matter of serious concern.
A study published in the medical journal Environmental Research revealed that prenatal phthalate exposure negatively affected the reproductive function of men. Further research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism opines that that phthalate-caused male infertility results in 618,000 extra medical fertility treatment per year at an additional cost of €4.71 billion annually ($5.4 billion US dollars based on today’s exchange rate). However, men are not alone when it comes to being negatively affected by phthalates. In an animal study published in the medical journal Reproductive Toxicology scientists discovered that even exposure for a short while to a type of phthalate known as di-n-butyl phthalate destroyed ovarian functions in female animals to a major extent.