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Boxed mac and cheese contains potentially harmful chemicals, study finds

Out of 30 cheese products tested, 29 contained phthalates.
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It's national Mac and Cheese Day on Friday, but if you're a fan of the boxed variety you'll find little reason to celebrate.

That's because a new study has found the presence of chemicals called phthalates in 29 of the 30 cheese products they tested – which included cheese powders, processed cheese and natural cheese.

Phthalates which were banned a decade ago for use in children's toys and child care products but are still used in food packaging. The highest amount of these phthalates were found in the dry-mix mac and cheese boxes that are a staple of American pantries.

The concentration of these phthalates were four times higher in mac and cheese powders than in natural cheeses in block, shredded and string forms.

Ten different varieties of mac and cheese were tested – including some organic ones – and researchers found high levels of phthalates in all of them.

As the New York Times reports, these chemicals get into the food via their packaging and the equipment used in its manufacturing.

The newspaper notes environmental and food safety groups have been petitioning the FDA to remove all phthalates from food, food packaging and food processing and manufacturing equipment, though the petition has been delayed for technical reasons.

As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains, while the full effects of phthalates aren't known, there is enough concern in medical circles to limit their use, as they have been known to cause neurological impairments in unborn children.

Exposure to the chemicals can lead to increased risk of IQ deficits, learning and memory impairment, antisocial behavior, and genital defects in boys.

The report notes that as many as 725,000 American women of childbearing age may be exposed to phthalates at levels that could potentially be harmful to future children.

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