Boxed varieties of macaroni and cheese, as well as other processed and natural cheese products were found to be contaminated with phthalates.
Phthalates are used to soften plastics and are used in food packaging materials. They have been shown to disrupt the hormones, may have unwanted effects on the development of the male reproductive system, and have been associated with childhood behavioral problems. The chemical has been banned from baby bottles and teethers over health concerns.
Despite efforts to limit exposure to these chemicals, phthalates can leach into food during packaging and processing. Researchers tested different cheese products, which include children's favorites such as string cheese and processed cheese slices, and found that only one of the 30 tested products did not contain phthalates. The highest concentrations of these chemicals were found in powdered samples from boxed mac and cheese.
"The average total concentration of phthalates in macaroni and cheese powder was more than four times higher than in natural cheese, on a fat basis," the researchers reported. "Processed cheese slices had nearly three times the phthalates of natural cheese. Products with higher phthalates in fat likely pick up more of these chemicals during food processing and packaging."
The report raises concern over the dangers of potentially harmful chemicals present in macaroni and cheese powder and cheese products, but other processed food also contain potentially dangerous ingredients.
Earlier this year, health authorities in Europe raised concern over the health effects posed by consumption of palm oil following results of a research that looked into process contaminants that form when refining vegetable oils at very high temperatures.
The amount of process contaminant glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), which has been shown to be genotoxic and carcinogenic, tend to be highest in palm oil and palm fats. Palm oil is used in chocolate spreads, instant noodles, and packaged bread.
Benzene is a cancer-causing chemical used in the production of plastics, rubbers, lubricants and dyes. It is also sometimes added to soda to prevent the growth of molds.
"Benzene is a carcinogen that can cause cancer in humans," the FDA said. "Benzene can form at very low levels (ppb level) in some beverages that contain both benzoate salts and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or erythorbic acid."
Some people adopt gluten-free diet with the idea that they are adopting a healthier lifestyle, but gluten-free food products often use rice flour as substitute for wheat. Rice has the tendency to bioaccumulate toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury from water, fertilizers, and soil. These toxic metals may raise risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological conditions.