Lab Tests: Chemicals linked to birth defects found in most Mac & Cheese products

(AP Photo/Matt York)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (WCMH) — Two million boxes of macaroni and cheese are sold every day here in the United States, but could serving up one of America’s favorite comfort foods be exposing you to harmful chemicals?

The tried and true box of mac n cheese you feed your kids could be downright dangerous, according to new lab tests.

The study of 30 cheese products, including 10 kinds of mac and cheese, found toxic industrial chemicals phthalates in all but one of the samples. The study says the highest concentrations were found in the highly processed cheese powder in boxed mac and cheese mixes, including nine products made by Kraft.

“The phthalate concentrations in powder from mac and cheese mixes were more than four times higher than in block cheese and other natural cheeses like shredded cheese, string cheese and cottage cheese,” Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center told the New York Times.

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can affect developing brains and alter thyroid function and sex hormones. They have also been linked with genital birth defects.

DEHP, which is the most widely banned phthalate around the world, was found in all 10 of the mac and cheese powders tested. The chemical has been banned from children’s toys for more than a decade, but the Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t banned the chemical from food and classifies them as indirect food additives.

Phthalates are not intentionally added to the product. They come from the equipment used to process the cheese powder.

The study was paid for by environmental advocacy groups, but it was conducted by an independent laboratory. The results have not been published in a peer reviewed journal.

The Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packing, which is one of the four groups who funded the study, is now urging mac n cheese makers to eliminate any and all phthalates.

“Our belief is that it’s in every mac ‘n’ cheese product — you can’t shop your way out of the problem,” said Belliveau.

Kraft, however, disputes the study.

“We do not add phthalates to our products,” Kraft spokesperson Lynne Galia said in an emailed statement obtained by NBC affiliate KING-TV. “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.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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