An alliance of public health and food safety advocates released a study on Thursday stating that laboratory testing revealed toxic chemicals in 10 varieties of cheese powder used in macaroni and cheese products.
According to The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging, which operates the website KleanUpKraft.com, all of the tested items came up positive for phthalates, a chemical that disrupts hormones that may be harmful to pregnant women and young children.
The majority of samples from The Kraft Heinz Company, one of the largest producers of macaroni and cheese products in the United States, tested positive for the chemical, prompting the coalition to call upon the food company to make changes.
“Serving up one of America’s favorite comfort foods shouldn’t mean exposing your children and family to harmful chemicals,” Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center and member of the coalition, in a statement. “Our test results underscore the need for industry to comprehensively test their products for phthalates and determine the steps needed to eliminate them.”
The tests by an independent laboratory showed that 29 out of 30 cheese products tested contained phthalates and that eight out of nine Kraft products tested showed levels of the chemical.
“Studies repeatedly show that these endocrine-disruptors may harm developing brains,” said Charlotte Brody, the national director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures and a member of a coalition, in a press release. “Scientists say there are no known safe levels of phthalates for vulnerable populations.”
The coalition’s press release announcing the findings of the study points out that phthalates are not intentionally added to food products, instead making their way into edible goods as an “indirect food additive” that comes in contact with food during processing, packaging, and preparation.
In response to the findings, The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging asked Kraft to identify and eliminate phthalates in its cheese products. According to the organization’s release, Kraft agreed to review the organization’s test results.
“The good news is that there are safer, affordable alternatives to phthalates,” said coalition member Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, in a statement. “Kraft should identify and eliminate any phthalates in its cheese products by ensuring that safer alternatives are used in food processing and packaging materials throughout the supply chain.”