But they haven't been banned from foods, and The New York Times reports that phthalates may still be present in high concentration in macaroni-and-cheese products. The worst offenders were the powdered cheeses from macaroni and cheese items, where levels of the potentially unsafe chemicals were four times higher than in other processed cheese products. As food additives, they are not banned by the FDA, but multiple studies have linked exposure to these chemicals to hormone disruption in boys as well as birth defects in young infant boys.
The concentration of the chemicals in those products was four times higher than in other cheese products, Mike Belliveau, one of the researchers and the executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, told the Times.
Ten varieties of boxed mac and cheese were tested, including some organic brands, and all were found to have high phthalate levels.
"Our belief is that it's in every mac 'n" cheese product - you can't shop your way out of the problem, ' he said. Because phthalates bind with fat, high-fat foods, such as cheese, are especially susceptible.
These chemicals can pose serious health threats to pregnant women and children.
In the Times article, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, offered tips for how families can limit exposure, including avoiding processed foods or anything that comes in a box with a long shelf-life, choosing low-fat dairy products and storing food in glass, stainless steel, ceramic or wood containers instead of plastic. Doctors say there's a strong evidence that phthalates block the production of the hormone testosterone in utero too.More news: Woolworths To Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags From Next Year
What are phthlates and how do they get into foods?
A 2014 report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission urged federal agencies to assess the risks of the chemicals 'with a view to supporting risk management steps'.
In the meantime we can try making mac and cheese from scratch, but any mom who's attempted it knows that kids will turn their nose up the fresh stuff, no matter how gooey and delicious it is. Nine out of the 30 samples were Kraft products.
The New York Times reports that the company did not respond to requests for comment on the findings and MailOnline has asked again.
They are not intentionally added to food - the chemicals seep from food processing equipment like plastic tubing and conveyor belts. They are industrial chemicals used to soften plastics and are used as solvents, in adhesives and in ink on packaging. Belliveau says they've been banned in Europe.