Thursday, July 13, 2017

How Everyone's Favorite Comfort Food, Mac & Cheese, Became The Main Source of Hormone Altering Chemicals

MAC and Cheese is an institution in itself. It is the definition of comfort food and a childhood (and adult!) favorite for many. IT really is as American as apple pie - so how can it be that it has been found to be the main source of exposure to a toxic hormone mimicking chemical?  And are other foods exposing us too?

Plastic and Food- although common - not a great combo
Come home from the supermarket and you are sure to realize just how much food is in contact with and packaged in plastic.   Add to that, what we don’t see ;the plastic that comes into contact with our food before it even makes it to store shelfs. Lots of equipment used in the manufacturing of certain meals are also plastic.  So- what’s the problem?

The problem is that some proven toxic chemicals in plastic are migrating into your food and into you and your kids.

What chemicals? 
Phthalates, a hormone mimicking chemical, is one of the most worrisome.  

Dangers of Phthalates:  
Phthalates are chemicals that can disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children.

Prenatal exposure to phthalates in no joke.   It has been found to lead to” abnormal development and function of the brain and reproductive system.”  Up to 725,000 American women of childbearing age may be exposed daily to phthalates at levels that threaten the healthy development of their babies, should they be pregnant. 

Where are phthalates found?  
Phthalates are used in plastics and in products that contain fragrances (they are the chemical that allows any given fragrance to ‘stick’ to any given product).  

However, today most people are primarily exposed to phthalates from the food we eat.   A recent study concluded it is dairy products that are the greatest source of dietary exposure to the especially bad phthalate DEHP for infants and women of reproductive age.

How do the phthalates get into our food and bodies?
Phthalates can migrate into food products during processing, packaging, and preparation.  They are attracted to fatty tissue and are found more in processed foods, fatty food (dairy, baked goods and fast food and even infant formula) 

There is no doubt that phthalates are bad for us all but, in the US, the government has been slow to respond.   The chemical was banned from children’s teething rings and rubber duck toys over a decade ago, but it has not been banned from food.

Europe, however, banned most phthalates for plastics in contact with fatty foods, including dairy products. 


A new study  conducted by a Coalition of organizations (including members from Environmental Health Strategy Center, – Food and Ag. Natural Resources Defense Council , National Medical Association Commission on Environmental Health, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Earthjustice, Ecology Center etc)  is especially worrisome to parents.  It turns out store bought macaroni and cheese  (both organic and conventional) has high levels of phthalates.

  • Phthalates were detected in nearly every cheese product tested but phthalate levels were more than four times higher in macaroni and cheese powder samples than in hard blocks & other natural cheese. 
  • DEHP, the most widely restricted phthalate, was found more often and at a much higher average concentration than any other phthalate, among all the cheese products tested.
  • Although brand names were not disclosed, it was disclosed that at least 9 of the products were made by Kraft. 
  • According to the New York Times, “two million boxes of mac and cheese, a relatively inexpensive food that can be whipped up in minutes, are sold every day in the United States”

While it is true that the concentration of phthalates in food is low, it is important to realize that they are still higher than the natural hormones in the body (especially for infants and fetus’). 

What to do?
  • The system is broken.  It is suspected that all boxed, powdered mac and cheese will have high levels of phthalates.  All high fat dairy will too. So consider taking these measure at home- especially if you are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant or have young children 

  1. As a parent opt to make mac and cheere from scratch at home instead of buying boxed kind.
  2. Decrease or eliminate dairy products, especially high fat (milk, cheese etc)
  3. eat more fresh foods (fruits, veggies, lean meats etc) and much less processed foods
  4. Consider signing this petition that is asking Kraft, one of the US’s top cheese producers to Eliminate sources of phthalates in your cheese!  (   )
  5. plastics are bad for your food and for the planet.  Try seeking out items that are packaged in less plastic (glass, cardboard and tetrapack are great alternatives)
  6. Phthalates are also commonly found in beauty products, personal care products, cleaning products, home scents, toys and  really any product that smells artificially.  If you see the word ‘fragrance’ in the ingredients , it most probably has phthalates.   Learn the difference between unscented and fragrance free. Fragrance Free is what you are looking for.This means that no artificial (synthetic) fragrances have been added to the product. unscented products typically have added fragrance agents used to mask the other smells. 

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