Fertility issues are no laughing matter. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in about 10 American couples struggle with infertility. This may not be a problem for you now, but just wait until you try to conceive OR want to have grandkids. Even if you are done having kids, the fertility of your children will all of a sudden become very important to you when it’s their turn to raise a family. This is why it’s so disappointing that this brand, being wildly popular with children of young families, was caught contaminating their customers with chemicals that are linked to infertility.
Iconic Kraft Mac & Cheese, who sells over 560 MILLION boxes of macaroni and cheese every year in the United States, tested positive for a chemical strongly linked to infertility. According to The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging, the cheese powder from Kraft Mac & Cheese tested positive for large amounts of an endocrine disrupting chemical, phthalates, which is strongly linked with lowering fertility rates in men. Endocrine disrupting chemicals like phthalates are estimated to cause Americans over $340 BILLION per year in health care expenses and loss of productivity. Phthalates, pronounced “thal-8s” is big business. In fact, the global chemistry industry produced about 12 billion pounds of this endocrine disrupting chemical in 2014. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States produces about $470 million worth of phthalates per year. That’s a ton of phthalates.
Table of Contents
What are Phthalates and What are the Health Effects?
Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds used to make plastic bendy and pliable. They have been classified as an endocrine disrupting chemical because they interfere with the endocrine system, which governs the production and distribution of hormones within the body. Phthalates have been implicated in several health issues, such as birth defects, cancers, and diabetes. Scientists have linked exposure to some phthalates during pregnancy and early childhood to changes in the developing brain that may result in kids who grow up struggling to succeed in school, at work, and in life.
Phthalates are being restricted around the world, including in China. But what troubles researchers the most is their potential impact on male fertility. Over the last five years, a growing body of research has indicated that phthalates have the ability to rewire the male reproductive system, including interfering with androgenic hormones such as testosterone. This, in turn, is the reason why phthalates are linked with poor sperm quality and testicular development.
How Do Phthalates End Up In Kraft Mac & Cheese
There are numerous ways endocrine disrupting phthalates can find their way into a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese. From the plastic tubing used to milk the cows, to the gaskets inside containers, through plastic and rubber coating at the factory, to the gloves they use in preparation. Kraft Mac & Cheese has evidently been exposing us to phthalates through mismanagement of their processing, allowing a harmful chemical inside their food. See the diagram below for a visual.
National Macaroni and Cheese Day Petition to Kraft
In recognition of National Macaroni and Cheese Day, the coalition has issued a call to The Kraft Heinz Company — the dominant seller of boxed macaroni and cheese, with 76 percent of market share — to drive industry-wide change by eliminating any sources of phthalates that may end up in its cheese products. Detailed information and a public petition are available at http://www.KleanUpKraft.org.
Will you please sign this petition and share it with your friends? Then stop buying from this company because they are potentially causing harm.
What The Lab Results Determined
For the study, the coalition contracted an independent laboratory experienced in the testing of phthalates in food to test samples of 30 individual cheese products from various manufacturers that were purchased at retail grocery stores in the United States and shipped to the lab, unopened, in their original packaging. The samples tested included nine of Kraft’s many cheese products. Findings revealed:
- Phthalates in nearly every cheese product tested (29 of 30 samples), with 10 different phthalates identified and up to six found in a single product.
- Phthalates in eight of the nine Kraft cheese product samples tested.
- Toxic chemical phthalates at levels on average more than four times higher in macaroni and cheese powder than in hard cheese blocks and other natural cheese.
- DEHP, the most widely banned phthalate around the world, in all 10 macaroni and cheese powders. DEHP accounted for nearly 60 percent of all phthalates found in the cheese product samples that were tested.
“Studies repeatedly show that these endocrine-disruptors may harm developing brains,” explained Charlotte Brody, RN, National Director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a coalition member. “Scientists say there are no known safe levels of phthalates for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and young children.”
Human health studies also have linked exposure to some phthalates during pregnancy with a genital condition in baby boys associated with increased risk of reproductive health problems, including testicular and prostate cancer, and poor sperm quality.
Translation: Phthalates are bad for fertility.
Who Else Is Affected by Phthalates?
Federal scientists reported this year that 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 become pregnant. Scientists agree that for most people the greatest exposure to phthalates comes from the food we eat.
Phthalates are not intentionally added to food, but are classified as “indirect” food additives by government agencies. Industrial chemicals commonly added to plastics, rubber, adhesives, inks, and coatings, phthalates have been shown to migrate into food products during food processing, packaging, and preparation.
Changes Kraft Needs to Make Pronto to Safeguard Consumers, Especially Young Boys
The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging has requested that Kraft identify and eliminate any sources of phthalates in the production of its cheese products, and use its leadership position to change the industry. Kraft has responded to the coalition’s request and has agreed to a meeting to review the new test results and discuss these concerns.
“The good news is that there are safer, affordable alternatives to phthalates,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition member. “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 its supply chain.”
A 2014 scientific review paper concluded that dairy products were the largest contributor of dietary exposure to DEHP for pregnant women and children, based on phthalate levels and food consumption rates.
Based on the risks that phthalates pose to women and children, many of these chemicals have been banned for use in children’s toys and childcare articles by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But that’s little protection for pregnant women. Europe has already prohibited all phthalates from use in plastic food contact materials for fatty foods, including dairy products, except for three phthalates whose use has been highly restricted. In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to take action in response to growing concern and scientific consensus.
More About the Coalition For Safer Food Processing & Packaging
The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging is a national coalition of nonprofit organizations concerned about human health, food safety, and social justice who are working together to persuade major food manufacturers to identify and eliminate phthalates and other chemicals of high concern from the American food supply.
Its members include:
Environmental Health Strategy Center
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Center for Food Safety
Learning Disabilities Association of America
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families
Mind the Store
Healthy Babies Bright Futures
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Science & Environmental Health Network