July 13, 2017
Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, DEOHS Adjunct Associate Professor and Co-director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit in Region X, was quoted in the recent New York Times article, Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese on July 12, 2017.
Potentially harmful chemicals called phthalates have been banned from children’s teething rings and rubber duck toys for over a decade, but have been found in high concentrations in macaroni and cheese mixes using powdered cheese.
According to recent research conducted by Dr. Sathyanarayana, early childhood exposure to phthalates could be linked to neurodevelopment and behavioral problems in young children such as aggression, hyperactivity, and possible cognitive delays. For those who are concerned over exposure to phthalates she suggests avoiding processed foods if you are pregnant, have a young child, or want to reduce your exposures to phthalates for other reasons.
In a follow up article posted by Slate.com, Dr. Sathyanarayana states that she has not run the numbers herself, but you would most likely need to eat multiple boxes of Mac and Cheese every day to see clear negative health effects. The Slate.com article notes that the study cited in the New York Times article did not indicate the levels of phthalates found in the powdered cheese samples, so it is difficult to say if the dose is high enough to be harmful.