Love mac and cheese? Beware of the chemical in those boxed versions

Try homemade mac and cheese if you want to avoid the chemicals in the powdered cheese mixes found in boxed products.
Try homemade mac and cheese if you want to avoid the chemicals in the powdered cheese mixes found in boxed products. Tribune

Before breaking out another box of macaroni and cheese to whip up, you might want to stop and think about what’s in that golden cheesy meal.

A controversial chemical called phthalates is present in multiple mac and cheese powdered cheese mixes, according to a report from the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging.

The chemical, which is found in plastics, adhesives and sealants, has been connected to learning and behavior problems in children and birth defects in boys, a New York Times article said.

The report stated that phthalates were found in 29 of the 30 cheese products tested, with the highest concentrations showing up in powdered cheese mixes. Nine of the cheese products tested were made by Kraft, the Times article said. The report didn’t list names of the specific products tested.

1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food each year. Your kitchen is filled with food safety tools that, when used properly, can keep you and your loved ones healthy. (Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The phthalate levels were more than four times higher in the powder samples than any other type of cheese tested – including processed and natural cheeses.

Ten varieties of boxed mac and cheese were tested, including some organic brands, and all were found to have high phthalate levels.

Phthalates are not intentionally added to food, the report said, but can bind with food from contact with processing equipment, printed labels or plastics materials used for food packaging.

Several types of the chemical are banned in children’s products, and Europe has banned most phthalates for plastics in contact with fatty foods, the report said, but the Food and Drug Administration has not banned their presence in foods in the United States.

For anyone considering avoiding boxed brands, The Eagle has Mac and Cheese and Peas & Carrots Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipes listed in its food and drink section.

Gianna Dinuzzo, blogger and recipe creator for Ooooby Fresno, makes this healthy, vegan "mac and cheeseless" from vegetables grown on Valley farms.

Delaney Hiegert: 316-268-6212, @Delaney_C