The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese

Jul 12, 2017 · 465 comments
Mountain Dragonfly (NC)
I pulled up the study that was presented...(PDF report) and all the brand names were redacted, I assume to be able to test and report unbiased. However, for the consumer, this article would have been much more helpful if brands and products were identified and effects of exposure to the phthalates was clearer. Most processed foods are generally not good for us. However, in a consumer/capatist society, it seems that healthy fresh foods and products are only available to the wealthy.
Diane (Pennsylvania)
I believe that these chemicals cam cause some of these issues, but not all...there is no mention that people tend to eat large quantities of pasta, made from a wheat, and that the cheeses in these products are mostly artificial or processed. Wheat can act like a drug when you eat it in large amounts. causing glucose alteration and insulin surges. So the combination of eating a high carb meal, such as large portions of mac and cheese, cause many metabolic issues and lead to metabolic syndromes, mostly causing imbalances in hormones and diabetes like symptoms and even cancer.
Ally (Nebraska)
This article really took me by surprise. When I was younger I used to eat mac and cheese all the time and I still do, as well as millions of other kids and people of the world. I knew it wasn't the healthiest thing I could be eating but I didn't know it was bad to the extent that its actually causing hormonal imbalance and serious medical issues. Personally I think that companies that make mac and cheese should cut back on using plastic material to process it or use less of whatever is causing this chemical to get into the food. Or they could at least make it more clear to consumers about the whole situation. But it's not just mac and cheese that's processed around plastic materials or is kept in a box with that chemical in the labels. At my house our cabinets are filled with boxed or packaged food and I know that my house isn't the only one with a lot of packaged food. So just think about how many chemicals is in all of that food. That's kind of a scary thought. If they decided it was a good idea to ban the chemical from being put in plastic children's toys such as rubber ducks and chewing toys, why would they allow it in something that people of all ages eat and digest? It doesn't make very much sense if you ask me. Especially if it's proven that when this chemical is consumed, it causes health problems such as hormonal imbalance, reproduction issues, and cancer in males. Now that I know this information, I will cut way back on the amount of mac and cheese I consume.
frasco382 (Montclair, New Jersey)
Reading this article about some mac and cheese products contain toxic materials made me become very interested in these upcoming product. As a child of my age and being limited to such ways to make and get food, mac and cheese is a very helpful food that is easy to make and very good. Taking a look at this article is a must for some parents and children because of some effects such as childhood aggression, hyperactivity, and delays. Scientists have looked into the problem and came to the conclusion of some of the main ingredients and materials used in the mac and cheese are being stored in metal bowls that can contain phthalates which was banned in children toys nearly a decade ago. This chemical called phthalates that has reportedly found its away to the cheese powder mixture is responsible for blocking the growth of the hormone testosterone and a lower sperm count, contributing to general birth defects in most infants. As a frequent consumer of these products, more tests should be made to see the origin off these chemicals in the ingredients, and recreate methods used to prepare the product. It is very alerting to know how they have just recently discovered this problem knowing that I have consumed these products for years, and wondering If the phthalates are going to affect me in the future.
Lauren (Omaha, NE)
It has surprised me to be informed that a well-known and favorable meal found across the nation has dangerous chemicals hidden inside it which could prompt the occurrence of health risks. This meal is so commonly found on young children's plates that it is crazy to imagine them allowing the sales of harmful chemicals to be dispersed inside macaroni and cheese allowing people to gain exposure to phthalates at a younger age. You would not imagine a harmful chemical that was banned from children's teething rings and rubber duck toys a decade ago to be found in a dish where children can directly ingest the chemical.
Since the chemical is transmitted into macaroni and cheese through the manufacturing process, it makes me wonder what other commonly known processed foods have this chemical present in them. We were unaware of phthalates in macaroni and cheese until recently, what if there are more harmful chemicals in popular drinks and foods?
Knowing that phthalates block the production of the hormone testosterone and that it heightens the risk of testicular cancer, then the United States should ban the use of phthalates in plastics that are used for food items. Stopping the spread of these harmful chemicals in commonly consumed food products will help limit the risk of dangerous health risks to occur.
Andrew Oltmanns (Nebraska)
Growing up my favorite food to eat was macaroni and cheese and to this day it is still my favorite food to eat. Whether throwing it into the microwave at noon for a quick lunch to fill me up for the day or have a little cheesy snack at night. Even going out to restaurants I would order macaroni and cheese to fill me up for the night and would have the leftovers the next day. Learning that Kraft mac and cheese has chemical that can in the future harm my children and higher my chance of testicular cancer is very heart breaking. While I am still growing up I am going to hit that point of heading off to college, and everyone knows that the most common food college students eat is either fast food, ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. It baffles me that the F.D.A. lets this pass as a way to produce food, even though they banned it from children toys. If scientists say that phthalate is on one of the most endocrine disrupting chemicals list I sure would not want my children to have macaroni and cheese anymore. But learning of this new information I think it will push for more healthy diets in families without having mac and cheese on the grocery list anymore. The know knowledge of harming chemicals found in macaroni and cheese can now pose more questions of whether other harming chemicals are in other very quick and easy meals.
taz rahman (la)
This article really caught my eye because mac and cheese has always been one of my favorite dishes, from when I was a little kid to even now. I don't eat it as much now because obviously I know it is not very healthy even though the cheesy, goey pasta is very tempting. What upset me is that mac and cheese is a food a lot of children eat. I know for a fact that my little cousins eat this and it is also served in schools. It's also a very fast food to make so I'm sure a lot of moms feed this dish to their kids without knowing that they are harming them. Pregnant ladies probably eat this a lot too not knowing they are harming their unborn child so it is very alarming. In the article it says that two million boxes are sold every day. TWO MILLION!! I don't know about you but I consider that to be a lot of mouths. I think it should be taken off of markets until companies make sure no harmful chemicals are going into anyones mouths, especially children. I think its even worse that this a mainly a childrens dish because children are the people of the future and if they are the ones with the most birth defects and health issues then that would be a big problem. I think a main problem with America is that we put so many things into our body without knowing what it is and it has became a problem. I'm sure now a days no one even checks the label to see what ingredients are in our food because honestly who has time for that. I know I don't but I am going to start
Rob (New Hampshire)
Could the BRAND NAMES of the bad products possibly be provided?? I've always used ANNIE'S brand mac n cheese; the ANNIE'S brand touts itself as a very healthy product, and I have always trusted that it is so. Have I missed this information somewhere??
Dj (PNW)
Yes, you missed something. Re-read the article
Sam (new york)
This article really caught my eye in that I used to enjoy mac & cheese just like the ones mentioned in the article. I work at a day care and I know that every Tuesday we give them mac & cheese, with the powdered cheese. So in a sense we have potentially been harming them and have been completely unaware of the life changing ingredient. Its very alarming knowing that they found this chemical in it that causes so many problems. The fact that a beloved childhood dish of mine is associated with birth defects, learning & behavior problems is scary to think about. I can't help but think that if I continued my love for the easy to cook dish, would I have been effected by the phthalate. I would have never known about this harmful chemical in mac & cheese if it wasn't for this article. I think people need to be aware of this problem as soon as possible because its effecting our younger generations. With some two million boxes being sold on a daily in the U.S. I am infuriated that it has not been taken off the market. Why must manufacturers put other people's lives at risk, especially the young, just to make a profit? It sickens me that people are this way.
Sophia (Clingman)
"The chemicals in your mac and cheese" by Roni Caryn Rabin
Searching for a meal as innocence as Mac and Cheese has become a staple of my daily life. It's inexpensive and has fueled some of the best childhood memories one could ask for. My mother always said to me don't by a food if you can't pronounce the names of the ingredients and, although a good guildline, my undeveloped ability to articulate words would leave me eating basically apples the rest of my preschool life. However she did feed me Mac and Cheese. Despite her rule, she persisted with the ready made meal, one that could not fail. Looking back, I see it's extremely hard to avoid foods with ingredients on can't pronounce and in fact it's relatively silly. It's a personal belief of mine that just because it was made in a lab or is articfical doesn't mean you should avoid it at all costs. GMOs at first glance seem menacing however have helped fill the stomachs of millions of people. The chemicals are preservatives such that our food doesn't rot over the course of its shipping. And yes, they can add to the texture, color, and flavor of the food without them our world would go hungry. With our rapidly increasing population it's harder and harder for farmers to keep up the unrelenting demands of the general public. Without these chemicals and artificial ways of preserving and growing food many would starve.
Jorge Uoxinton (Brooklyn)
Did she finish the article with "Without these chemicals and artificial ways of preserving and growing food many would starve."??? Apparently she has never been to a local open fair, where the food sold is planted and tended by the food sellers.
Collyns (NY)
While that is a good suggestion of the iconic 1%, a great deal of the population would struggle to feed themselves, let alone their families on prices charged at these markets. No one is saying that healthier food isn't worth it but in the end it comes down to what your budget allows.
Dj (PNW)
Collyns, beans and rice are cheap and healthy, leaving enough money for fresh fruits and veggies
Shiveen Kumar (New York)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese" by RONI CARYN RABIN
This is a very interesting topic because it seems that everything in today's world has some type of chemical infused in it. This article strongly reminds me of the so called "studies" talked about on news channels like ABC news. Although they are "studies," sometimes what is said about it is completely wrong. I assume it is just a way to get attention from us to increase views. But quite honestly, I never really pay attention to those. Especially when the "studies" are titled "How_ might affect you." This very idea of how news stations falsely report studies has been looked it too, yet people still are in awe when they hear them on TV. On another note, this articles reminds me of the issue of Subway and how chemicals found in their bread were them same as chemicals found in yoga mats.Similar to the levels of phthalates found in samples of cheese as discussed in the article. Now, this makes me wonder if this chemical, phthalates, is listed on the nutrition label of the product. Granted that most of us don't read the nutrition label where it lists all the ingredients in the product. I'm pretty sure if you check any nutrition label on any food product in your house right now, I'm certain you will be shocked to see some of the things listed. Names so bizarre you try to sound them out, but fail miserably.. you then go to google and find out the are some preservative or artificial coloring of some kind.
Giovanna (Prescott, AZ)
Jorge Uoxinton (Brooklyn)
Shaven Kumar made some good points. It emphasizes that bad news always sell more than good news. It is time to reverse this plague. Good news should always come first, and, if there is enough time, bad news.
bengal12Pranav022200 (Bloomfield,NJ)

The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese
By-Roni Caryn Rabin

When looking through the articles for an interesting one to write about, this one really caught my eye. I found it extremely interesting that mac & cheese one of America's favorite dish is manufactured with chemicals that have been connected to birth defects, learning problems, and behavior problems. It is surprising to read about the harmful phthalates in something like Mac and Cheese. Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite meals, it is something I eat when there is nothing else to eat at my house. I would have never thought that there would be such harmful chemicals in such a good meal. This chemical can damage male hormones, cause genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems with older children. With Americans buying approximately two million boxes of Mac and Cheese daily, I am worried why it is still out in the market.
Housna Batiebo (<br/>)
Chemicals in my mac and cheese?!?!?

The article”The chemicals in your mac n cheese”had me shocked.Mac and cheese was one of my favorite foods growing up and it stilis.How Could mac and cheese companies put possibly harmful chemicals in something they know many people enjoy?I mean people are still gonna eat it.The taste makes you forget there's a harmful chemical in your food.And what about when it actually harms you?

I also thought maybe the machines used to package it puts the chemical in it.Or maybe it's the packaging or packaging way.Either way,Companies that make mac and cheese need to change that because a chemical that can change how you grow or behave?Not good.This also makes me think that if it comes from the package,couldn't other packaged foods have the same risks.Or is it just mac and cheese?

Usually when I hear “mac and cheese is unhealthy”I think that it's high in calories or fat.Not that it has a harmful chemical.Awareness needs to be raised before something bad happens.I feel like the FDA has some part to play in this.If they know that food has a harmful chemical,why would they approve it?

Also companies that make mac and cheese really need to change because some kids or even babies eat mac and cheese.That could ruin their future growth-especially in males.Than what happens?Could these companies be sued for having a harmful chemical in their packaged foods?These mac and cheese company's needs to rethink how they packaged their foods and what's inside.
Iris Kim (Georgia)
"The Chemicals In Your Mac and Cheese"

Growing up, I remember eating hot and delicious bowls of Mac and cheese. It was one of my and many other children's favorites, at the time. Even now, I enjoy the creamy, warm taste. However, after reading this article, never in my imagination, have I thought that the innocent snack would contain a harmful chemical. The chemical, Phthalates,interferes with the human hormones which can cause future problems to children and pregnant women. Phthalates, originally was used in toys, wall, and floor coverings. To discover it to be found in food that we consume, it sickens me. People, especially young children, are eating such harmful food without realizing it.
Iris Kim (Georgia)
"The Chemicals In Your Mac and Cheese"

Growing up, I remember eating hot and delicious bowls of Mac and Cheese. It was one of my and many other children's favorites, at the time. Even now, I enjoy the creamy, warm taste. However, after reading this article, never in my imagination, had I thought that the innocent snack would contain a harmful chemical. The chemical, Phthalates, interferes with the human immune system which can cause future problems to children and pregnant women. Phthalates, originally was used in toys, wall and floor coverings. To discover it to be found in food we consume, it sickens me. People especially young children, are eating such harmful food without realizing it.
bengal10Alexandria012802 (Bloomfield)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese" by Roni Caryn Rabin

I chose this article immediately as it grabbed my attention being a lover of mac and cheese. Not only do I love mac and cheese, but I buy the box containing powdered cheese, which the article discusses as having high levels of chemicals in it. I recently went to the supermarket, and noticed a half price sale on the mac and cheese. It crossed my mind if the sale had anything to do with the FDA reporting such news. I made my family aware of this, and we are now holding off on eating mac and cheese at this time. Mac and Cheese is one of my favorite things to eat. By now knowing this has changed the way I choose my foods.
Iris Kim (Georgia)
"The Chemicals In Your Mac and Cheese"

Growing up, I remember eating hot and delicious bowls of Mac and cheese. It was one of my and many other children's favorites, at the time. Even now, I enjoy the creamy, warm taste. However, after reading this article, never in my imagination, have I thought that the innocent snack would contain a harmful chemical. The chemical, Phthalates, interferes with the human hormones which can cause future problems to children and pregnant women. Phthalates, originally was used in toys, wall, and floor coverings. To discover it to be found in food that we consume, it sickens me. People especially young children, are eating such harmful food without realizing it.
Caitlin Santos (GA)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese"
With the average price of mac and cheese being about two dollars, how could anyone resist those boxes of golden delight? It's the "I don't feel like cooking" go-to, a college student's best friend and the dish that's practically on every kid's menu in the country. You'd think it would be hard to find something to turn people away from this favored dish, but recent studies have challenged that notion. Scientist have discovered harmful chemicals called, Phthalates, which cause birth defects and risk to expecting mothers. What? I know! Take a moment to soak that in. The interesting thing: this harmful chemical is still stocked on our grocery store's shelves! Boxed mac and cheese is a wolf disguised in a sheep costume. Next time I go to the grocery store I won't let those SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer shapes deceive me!
Jason Devaraj (New York, USA)
“The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese”

These days healthier alternatives to processed and genetically modified foods seem to be on the rise. From organic shampoo to pesticide-free strawberries, this health craze seems to be commonplace in every American home, but do these healthy alternatives actually prevent us from ingesting harmful chemicals?

Studies have shown that a staple in every kitchen, boxed mac and cheese, has been shown to contain harmful phthalates. The phthalates are not intentionally added to the mac and cheese mixes but leak into the food from the packaging. This concerns me because many people are oblivious to the fact that they are ingesting dangerous chemicals. While Europe has banned many phthalates that they use in their products, the Food and Drug Administration still allows the use of this synthetic material in packaging. This chemical is believed to block testosterone and cause neurodevelopmental problems in humans, which makes it hard to believe that the F.D.A allows its use in the food industry. This is saddening because mac and cheese is a common favorite among young children, which can cause them to acquire these problems

Studies like this help me become more inclined to make better choices in my diet. We all should try to limit processed foods and eat more healthily. Maybe those organic brussel sprouts aren’t so bad afterall.
Kaylee Ramirez (New York City)
Mac & Cheese: No Longer Safe to Eat

Roni Caryn Rabin’s “The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese really caught my eye because of how much I enjoy eating macaroni and cheese. I find it ridiculous of how I could be putting myself at danger by eating one of my favorite dishes. This just makes me think if anything I insert into my body is even safe and am I better off eating none of my favorite foods. Foods are becoming very risky to eat because of the chemicals they involve. Chemicals like phthalates can affect infant boys and harm their hormones. And these chemicals can be found in many other foods.
Abbie16DCHSAP (Cross City)
“The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese”
My favorite childhood snack growing up was Mac and cheese. The kind of macaroni and cheese I liked was the one where you put water in a bowl with the noodles and then put the powder in after you heat it, not the kind where you cook it on the stove and it’s premade. Little did I know that the powder I put in the noodles had chemicals in it that can affect infant boys and have birth defects on older boys. The chemical that is harmful in the powder is called phthalates. This chemical has recently been found in over 20 new cheese related foods. The chemicals in the powdered cheese and what they can do to boys is what I found interesting in this article this week.
Bengal10Alyssa043002 (New Jersey)

To think that Mac and Cheese, the one food basically all kids eat has harmful chemicals in it. Even now some older kids and even adults eat mac and cheese and are also in danger to these chemicals. This has to make you wonder what else out there is harmful to us. When I first saw this headline I knew I had to look into it and get more information. It is honestly astonishing how bad the risks are to eating this family friendly dish. I am amazed of how many precautions we now need to take just because of food. We can get cancer, it is a danger to pregnant women, and even learning and behavior problems in older children, with lots more risks. And what's worse that it isn't only food its dust at home, detergents, moisturizers, even cosmetics. Even sippy cups have become dangerous because of chemicals. If it is so dangerous to our health, why haven't stores or even restaurants banned this dish?
Abigail (Delaware)
It is surprising to read this article about the harmful phthalates in something i love so much. I would have never knew that there could be something so harmful to males and new borns. This common food can cause defects and other problems with the human body. I would have never guessed that most all mac and cheese has this harmful substance in it. I find it interesting that the FDA doesn't do anything about this harmful substance in such a common food if it is so harmful to our health. Now that I know there are harmful substances like phthalates in one of my favorite foods, I wonder what other foods the FDA aren't keeping out of stores despite their harmful chemicals.
Ashley H (Omaha)
Harmful chemicals in my mac and cheese?!?! Mac and Cheese was one of my favorite meals as a kid. I still eat it today as usually a side dish for the main portion of the meal. I would have never thought that there would be such harmful chemicals in a super cheap and yummy meal. It makes you wonder why they use the machines they are using if those are the things that are putting the harmful chemicals into our mac and cheese. I would have thought that it would have been only maybe one brand of mac and cheese but it is almost all of them!!! It's scary to know that all if the parents who are feeding their young children mac and cheese don't know the harmful chemicals that are inside of it. I hope that we can spread the word so that no more children can get hurt from these harmful chemicals.
Amari Woody (Rochester ny)
Wow reading this article about the chemicals in mac and cheese was a surprise to hear and learn about something that I love to eat and grew up on. Hearing about the chemicals make me want to look up information on other foods that I enjoy to eat, making sure I am not putting myself in danger of my health. I am curious to know what are the FDA doing to fix the problem and if it's so dangerous to our children health why our they not banning it in stores, as well I'm restaurants.
Julian Laugand (Clarion, Pa)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese”
For me Mac and Cheese is something I eat when there is nothing else to eat at my house usually with a hotdog. I believe that for the most part every food has chemicals in especially fruits, frozen food and fast food. It is hard to come by organic foods that have no GMO’s in it or haven't been chemically treated with pesticides or any other substances. The modern corn has been so genetically modified over decades that it is hard to identify what it used to be, maize. Most people, including me, do not think twice about what they are eating and what might be in the food. There should be more research by scientists and even the everyday consumer on what they are eating and the health issues that come with it. There has been research on GMO’s leading to people having a higher chance of developing cancer. If one wants to avoid chemicals in their food they should stop cooking frozen, microwaveable, and ready to eat foods and try making their own recipes with whole, organic foods. I hope that over the next couple over years companies start to go in reverse and use less and less chemicals to treat the food they produce.
bengal10felicia011702 (Bloomfield)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese" by Roni Caryn Rabin
As a kid, mac and cheese was my favorite food by far. Sometimes I would even eat it for more than one meal of the day. Therefore as soon as I saw the title of this article I felt compelled to find out more.
DH (Boston)
How do restaurants usually make their mac and cheese when it's offered on the menu? I'm guessing it probably depends on the establishment, but in general... Do they tend to use powdered cheese, or do they make their own sauce? Should we avoid mac and cheese when eating/ordering out as well, or just the boxed stuff in stores?

I'm not a fan of mac and cheese at all, especially kids' obsession with it, so I never buy it for my kids, but my husband has a nostalgic weak spot for it and wants to share it with the kids occasionally. Now I'm questioning any of it that he didn't make himself from real cheese...
RyanYIS2018 (Yangon, Myanmar)
"The Chemicals in your Mac and Cheese" by Roni Caryn Rabin

The Chemicals in Mac and Cheese, the first thing that came into my mind is Mac and Cheese which I adore since I was a little. My parent always told me not to eat those Mac and cheese not only for my health, for their financial too. For us here in Myanmar those kind of import foods and beverages are splendidly expensive when I was young. Those cheesy and creamy Mac and Cheese are delicious but everyone knows about unhealthy side of cheesy and creamy but now, not only those things are unhealthy and makes you feeling sick but also according to the article "the chemicals, called phthalates, can disrupt male hormones" which scares me. Research have show, those chemicals in the Mac and Cheese comes from the plastic that the company uses for packaging and equipment that contain plastic. I think food companies and FDA should considered those harmful chemical that are added to food before they hit to the market. Referring to article chemicals found in the food are still not banned ,which our younger generation could in risky situation. In my opinion for every processed food companies should use ECO friendly/biodegradable packaging and equipment.
Anthony Zambrano (California)
“The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese” by Anthony Zambrano
Mac and Cheese is a meal I’ve enjoyed and looked forward to since I was a child. Even today I enjoy a nice, warm bowl of mac and cheese with pepper. It’s a meal that has been prepared and eaten by my family and I since as long as I can remember. That’s why this article caught my eye and interested me to read it. And as I read the article I became curious on the chemical and how much harm it can do, so I was curious why this wasn’t found sooner, and even addressed and fixed. The chemical found in mac and cheese is called phthalates. Phthalates are any various salts or esters of phthalic acid used especially as plasticizers and in solvents. This chemical can disrupt male hormones, cause genital birth defects in infant boys, and learning and behavior problems with older children. This chemical from what I read isn’t in food but can travel onto food. It is found in ink, food packaging, and in manufacturing equipment. Many have told the FDA to investigate the product but it has been delayed. Phthalate can be found in packaged food, drugs and beverages, and toys. I’m glad I read this article because it informed me on the dangers of eating mac and cheese. Also what chemicals is inside the product.
Lucy (Lord)
This article surprised me a lot! When you hear that Mac & Cheese is bad for you, the first thing that comes to mind is the unhealthy part, not that it contains dangerous chemicals. This is a comfort food for many people especially children. For instance where I work we sell the Kraft Mac & Cheese and it is one of our top selling items for kids. I don't understand why it is okay for the chemicals to be banned in the production of children's toys, but not in a food that is most commonly eaten by children. Not many people are aware of this and this information needs to be revealed.
Sidney M (Omaha, Nebraska)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese"
The first thing that came to my mind when reading this article is that during my childhood, mac and cheese was one of the only things I ate. My parents just didn’t have the time to make high quality foods that I also liked every night. Mac and cheese was fast and easy to make; I remember being able to put the water and the noodles in the microwave by myself by the age of four. The demand for boxed mac and cheese products leads me to wonder why companies allow such high quantities of phthalates to get into their food from their plastic containers.
I know that plastic is cheap and easy to make. I don’t think, however, living with delayed neurodevelopment and behavioral problems from eating phthalates is easy. The article stated that the Kraft representative did not respond to messages relaying the information that phthalates were in their food. In a perfect world, Kraft would look into the research to see if their products were posing significant risks to consumers to make their product safer. Yet, it is unknown to what Kraft will do with this new information.
Kraft ignoring the statistics did not bother me as much as the FDA not regulating the phthalates that go into food did. According to the FDA, phthalates are, “indirect food additives.” However, the use of phthalates in children’s toys was outlawed because of the harm these chemicals can cause to young children.
To me, it's easier to eat things that are meant to be eaten, though.
Onora Lancaster (Grand Rapids, MI)
I have only recently become a self proclaimed health-nut, but even before my epiphany regarding processed foods reading this article would have raised some serious red flags for me.
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese" by Roni C. Rabin goes into detail about phthalates which are chemicals that are linked to all sorts of problems including infertility and cancer, and for young children it may lead to aggression, hyperactivity, and possible cognitive delays. With Americans buying approximately 2 million boxes of Mac and Cheese daily, I am severely perplexed as to why this toxic chemical is allowed to be consumed by the public? The answer, in short, is that the FDA does not have enough proof in writing to claim it as harmful. I think there is plenty of data presented in this article to prove otherwise. This text is another example of big food companies, (such as Kraft), blatantly profiting exponentially by feeding consumers detestable, cheap food. By watching documentaries like "Forks Over Knives" I have developed a very skeptical perception of food companies in general, taking whatever shortcuts they can in order to rake in a profit. The bottom line is that food is consumed by people, and you are what you eat. I believe a better investment in the country, rather than stuffing us with bad foods that contain harmful substances, would be to make healthy, whole foods more accessible and cheaper. As well as making healthy foods more prominent in current pop culture.
Jessica V./TRCS2017 (New York)
It's was found that the chemicals found are called phthalate. This can cause behavior problems and also be risky to young children or pregnant women. There was a study of 30 different types of cheese products and they all consisted phthalate.
Who would ever think that there are chemicals in their food.Especially mac and cheese. I don't know about others but I love mac and cheese and reading this article made me think. This is putting everyone at risk, because imagine how many people don't know about this. The good thing about this is there are ways to reduce the risk of phthalate in your food. Trying to use glass instead of plastic, and making sure you wash your hands. And if you want to continue eating mac and cheese, that's not going to be a problem since there are recipes to make your own mac and cheese.
I found this article interesting because it's about what we are eating right now. I eat mac and cheese about once a month, and I would have never thought it had chemicals which is why this brought my attention.
AlexM (New York)
This article was very interesting to me because even though the chemical has been banned from children toys it is still found in food and it has possible side effects. More testing should be done as told in the article and promoting parents and concerned adults to further look into the issue could go a long way to find out how harmful it may be. The most distressing thing is that big brands that sell millions of boxes of mac and cheese may contain the chemical meaning more people are exposed to it. This is a problem that many people may not have been aware of and should be exposed to.
Annie Cote (Massachusetts)
"The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese"

When looking through the Times for an interesting article to write about, this one really stuck out to me. I found it extremely interesting that mac & cheese-one of America's favourite dishes-is manufactured with chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, learning problems, and behaviour problems in children. This was extremely shocking considering that mac & cheese is probably one of the most popular food items for children; and even adults. If they have already banned these chemicals in children's toys, how have they still not removed them from this popular food? How is the Food and Drug Administration allowing this to happen? Although these questions may never be answered, it really does make you think before going to the grocery store. It also may teach people a lesson, and make them realise that processed foods aren't the best option in the first place. Any food sold in a cardboard box-paired with powdered cheese-is most likely not going to contain the most "health-friendly" ingredients. You are always better off preparing your own meals than going to the store and buying a pre-made box that is full of chemicals and other unnatural ingredients.
Lani (Texas)
The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese

I found this very interesting because I have a deep love for this cheesy goodness. Growing up when my brother and I were home alone he would always make Mac and cheese. To this day he still eats a bunch. I did not know there are harmful chemicals in my food, until today. If they banned these chemicals in children's toys why would they not ban it in a child's favorite food! The Food and Drug Administration really needs to start looking into it before children's health is affected any further. Many parents have no idea of this either. More people need to know about this.
HSmith (Denver)
The standard guide is "dont buy from the middle of the store." This area usually contains the boxed, canned, and prepared products. Following the guide would minimize this problem.
CS (Phoenixville, PA)
So, these phthalates bind to fats. That likely explains the - to me - pronounced plastic flavor of most peanut butters, be they processed or natural. I only buy the stuff sold in glass jars.
It seems most Americans have desensitized palates to a whole range of rather foul tasting chemicals.
Larry Holyoke (St. Louis)
Everyone please read this Slate take-down of this silly, silly story.
Boston Bob (Boston, MA)
Who needs science when you've got innuendo?
Federico (Amsterdam)
Having not lived in the U.S. for 17 years now, I find it difficult to understand why processed food in the U.S. is as popular as it is.

Here in Holland, it's still cheaper to buy pasta in bulk, and then make your own meal using tomato paste and spices than it is to buy a processed "pasta mix meal" box. Are prices for branded processed food so much cheaper in the US, or are we simply dealing with a case where boiling water to cook pasta (8-10 minutes) on one pot and making a sauce in another is somehow seen as a luxury only the rich can indulge themselves in?
ms (ca)
Two problems with this article, both related to hype and clickbait:

1) This is the 2nd article in 2 weeks that NY Times has published based on non-peer-reviewed research (the other was on the effect of raising the minimum wage on employment rates). Whatever happened to the Times' standards?

2) The title, while it might attract parents, needs to be changed. On the one hand, it's automatic clickbait for parents but the reality of the article is actually scarier. Reading further down, one learns that even if you DO NOT eat mac-n-cheese or even if you make it from scratch, you are exposed to these chemicals if you buy any products wrapped or contained in plastic. The pressure on the FDA and companies to change their practices would be much, much stronger if everyone who eats realizes they are affected, not just parents and kids.

I also agree with the top-rated commenter about products in Europe. Supermarket prices for many things are equivalent or cheaper than the US while tasting better with less chemicals involved.
Peter (<br/>)
I'm of mixed minds on this. On the one hand, I'd rather avoid eating any chemicals that don't occur naturally in foodstuffs - phthalates among them - but on the other, I rebel against scare-mongering, especially when vague, sinister terms like "endocrine disruptors" are tossed about.

In one of my former careers, I was involved in a project that detected an inappropriate material in a foodstuff; after a good deal of detective work we found that it was coming from the recycled-cardboard PACKAGING, not the foodstuff or the manufacturing process; and it got into the packaging because it contained the (then) new "carbonless carbon paper" (see how old I am?).

BTW, what kinds of plasticizers were used in those evil-smelling "squeezy-ball" toys that were all the rage about 10 years ago ?
Russ Carmel (NYC)
Wife of subscriber. I made home made mac and cheese because my memory of boxed mac and cheese used an odd colored orange powder years ago. Why not doubt packaged food is unhealthy. It usually is, isn't it?
Dan Herr (Brooklyn)
There are pthalates in basically every food and water product you buy at the store. Humans are really good at developing ways to poison themselves.
Robin (Queens)
Why not release the names of the products???
cykler (IL)
It's not peer-reviewed or published yet.
Alejandro Becerra (Mexico)
I find it shameful that NYT Science engages in fear-mongering. How many mac & cheese boxes would a child need to consume before they are affected by phtalates? What other foods contain phtalates? What is an acceptable number of phtalates? The dose makes the poison, but this article forgot that. Instead, it just ate up what it was handed by an 'advocacy group' that clearly doesn't understand or care about scientific rigor.
Max (San Francisco, CA)
Look at the mac n cheese photo with this article. Now imagine that fake-food clogging your arteries. The amount of phthalates you absorb will only assist the actual "food" in doing a job on your health. Let's get to the meat and potatoes of the matter here, please.
Alejandro Becerra (Mexico)
Dear NYT, did you know that literally everything is a chemical? Even if I made homemade mac & cheese, it would be flooded with chemicals. This headline is fear-mongering, just for the poor usage of the term 'chemicals'.
Max (San Francisco, CA)
The chemicals in your mac n cheese don't all come from the packaging and process. The "cheese" particularly is a contrived substance impersonating real food. Protect your children, take a little more time, and make something natural and healthy, and not out of a box, can or plastic package. Don't be lazy.
Ioanna Kendrick (Denver)
It would be helpful if stores stopped wrapping all those cheeses in plastic especially plastic wrap which also gives them a bad taste. Try buying a French camembert wrapped in paper and a wooden box and notice the difference
Cod (MA)
Can't imagine meats sold in styrofoam and plastic wrap packaging is doing good either.
anita (belgium)
It's the male babies with genital deformation and reduced testosterone production, which worries me, of child bearing age though I am not anymore of child bearing age. Only one ccomment mentioned "hypospdia" increase in baby boys; sexual orientation ?
Anna D (MA)
It's far more likely that the boys are being affected by the estrogens found in our drinking water as a result of millions of women using birth control pills and then urinating their BCP estrogenic residues into our water purification systems. That needs some study. And all that soy in our foods is estrogenic, too. I briefly gave my son soy milk when he was an infant because I thought he was having too much gas from real milk but quickly went back to real milk because it has so many benefits. So many parents have been feeding their boys soy-based foods because of the boloney they read about cow's milk. Maybe that deserves more careful study, too?
RobfromMedford (Medford MA)
Could we all agree to cease making distinctions between "advocacy groups" & "lobbyists"; they are the same thing. The only thing that distinguishes the two is whether or not we personally subscribe to their agenda (advocacy group) or not (lobbyist).
Rex (Canada)
My thoughts exactly.

Well articulated.

John Mardinly (Chandler, AZ)
Well, if you actually read the report, you see the measurements fall in the single parts per trillion range; typically 4 times higher than regular cheese, which also has phthalates. What this is, is a demonstration of new, incredibly sensitive analytical instrumentation that finds traces of anything you name in any target material. If you have ever made mac'n'cheese, you know that the total amount of the powder is disappointingly small. You would get a comparable dose of phthalates at a wine and cheese tasting event, ingesting natural cheese. Don't panic!
Dave (Poway, CA)
I believe you are off by a factor of more than 10,000. The level of DEHF, the largest of the types of phthalates found, averaged 50 microgram per kilogram on a product basis, and 298 micrograms per kilogram on a lipid basis. This is 10's or 100's of parts per billion, not single parts per trillion.

I agree with "Don't panic", but the point of the article is that the impact of phthalates is not fully known, and if you want to lower your families dose (it is essentially impossible to eliminate it) stay away from processed foods.
Mark Donaldson (Chicago)
To the NYTIMES; Why write this story? "The report, which was conducted by an independent laboratory and paid for by environmental advocacy groups, has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal." That's not science, it's a story. True science is peer reviewed, published, and reviewed some more. Stop messing with my mac-n-cheese. Kraft has already changed it to the point that it doesn't taste anything like it did when I was kid.
Nurit (Oregon)
Wake up! As things stand right now, The FDA represents the industry, not public health. It is the government's job - our government, yours and mine - to protect public health. The fact that the commenters are blaming parents / recommending recipes is showing WHY the USA is a society in DECLINE.
Karen Spencer (New Rochelle)
I am a devoted NYT reader. Sort of typical NYT demographic. The comments section of the articles is one of my favorite parts of the publication. Our "tribe" is usually united on many ideas.

But Mac 'n Cheese! I was shocked to see so many people defend the boxed product! American manufactured food is about profits for the manufacturer, not anything good for us! I don't like to cook but this can be made simply and also inexpensively if you shop carefully and use what you have in the house.

With the current healthcare crisis, we are all mandated to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves healthy.

Cow's milk is not great for humans. My husband loves mac and cheese but for us it's like a Christmas and Easter throwback. Me- vegetarian bordering on vegan.
Roger (Colorado)
interesting and sad to read the article today about the high rise fire in Honolulu. 1971 building with no sprinklers because they weren't required ...yet. I'm sure if there were a comment section in ...say would have had many people writing, "Sprinklers? we don't need no stinking sprinklers."
Brook Davis (my desk)
Oh, stop it.
wbj (ncal)
Sounds like we are all on your last nerve and about to be sent to bed without supper. Sorry about that.
BC (Vermont)
Well, I can see how someone could get "fed up" with seeing traditional foods like milk being vilified. Put it on the list with "carbs" and meat.
Kay (Sieverding)
It is sort of dangerous to walk around barefoot. I have a special pair of clogs I wear inside only. They prevent me from stubbing my toe, reduce my risk of falling, and protect my toes in the kitchen. They're washable! Much better than cloth slippers.
Robb PhD (Orlando)
To LMK: yes I agree there is lots of fear mongering when it comes to chemicals, GMOs and the silly Gluten free fad. However, I'd like to have the information to make an informed decision in any case. The link to the Final Report takes the reader to the Final Report where it seems like half of it has been redacted!
The products/brands tested are censored!
Is the "free press" afraid of companies getting embarrassed and suing them over facts?
That's where the real fear should be.
Dave (Poway, CA)
Robb PhD,

The cover letter for the report ( states that "The report describes the methods used and details the results. The lab report is as received from the laboratory, except that we have blacked out references to specific product and brand names, and to non-cheese products run in the same batches."
It is not press censorship.

Dave PhD
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
Even if "Mac and Cheese" wasn't plasticized it would still be associated with poor health and unhappiness because it's a gateway drug, like other junk-food.
Xavier (New York)
Mac & cheese, their favorite meal! That may be the issue as well.

The food industry in the US is a catastrophic health issue and still underestimated. When is this going to be recognized as the number one priority for children?

The American society is irresponsible and Wall-E vision of American obesity will soon become a sad reality.
paulsfo (san francisco)
At first glance, the following sounded alarming:
Although the concentration of phthalates in food may be quite low, measured in parts per billion, they are still present at higher levels than the natural hormones in the body.

However, one eats a tiny amount of food relative to one's body weight, thus the total *amount* of phthalates ingested from a meal is also likely tiny relative to the amount of the referenced hormones in the body. So it may come down to accumulation.
If, as another comment stated, the chemicals are eventually excreted, then there may be little accumulation, and consequently little or no significant effect from phthalates in mac & cheese.
I'm as worried about harmful chemicals in the environment, and the danger of relying on corporations (or the current administration) to protect us, as is the next guy. But, without more data and analysis, this feels more a scary story dressed up as thoughtful reporting.
Sequel (Boston)
A disappointing article. It claimed to find a hair-raising household threat, and then refused to address the level of the threat.

It is always a waste of time reading any story that relies on failure to do the journalist's basic job. Facts were converted to hearsay, converting the story to little more than idle gossip.
marymary (washington, dc)
Always a good idea to limit exposure to material that should not be ingested, but is there any chance that the risks here are being overstated? It would seem a lot more investigation needs to be done before hurrying to a conclusion.

In the meantime, mac and cheese is not exactly a tough D.I.Y. dish.
Max (San Francisco, CA)
It is just as likely that the actual food itself is more harmful to your health than the packaging or process by which it is made. Especially in the Kraft-massed produced version, the cheese is not an actual real food, and the mac part is devoid of any real nutritional value. Either way you look at it, less Mac n Cheese the better. Especially fed to our kids in the quantities currently consumed. Though I recently went out with a group from work and a 20-something ordered the Mac n Cheese off the menu which went for about 12.95. What a deal.
Bette Andresen (New Mexico)
If you want to avoid phthalates as much as possible the link below is helpful. I am willing to make an effort, and checked the recycle codes on my yogurt and kefir containers. They passed! :-)
Queens Grl (NYC)
Really not difficult to make home made mac n cheese. Stay away from this processed poison. And for added taste in your home made dish add cooked cauliflower in with the cheese sauce till it's blended well then bake. Delicious.
JohnB (NYC)
Phthalates are often associated with dairy products, because of plastic tubing involved with the milking process. Due to the silly and arbitrary "milk is one of the four food groups" rules from our childhoods, and the now-obsolete "if you don't have three glasses of milk per day, something bad will happen to you", our culture consumes the mammary fluid of another species at obscene rates. It's no wonder that this phenomenon contributes to an ingestion of such harmful chemicals.

There's an ever-expanding array of plant-based milks on the shelf, including combinations like almond/coconut, sometimes with safer packaging. As we explore these options more, perhaps we'll see a decrease in these awful discoveries.
Rodman (La Crescenta CA)
To writer Roni C Rabin:
is this accurate? if so, the statistic is astounding: "Some two million boxes of mac and cheese... are sold every day in the United States"
Max (San Francisco, CA)
That 2 million number, if true, is a sad monument to the success of the processed fake-food industry (aided and abetted by the advertising industry) as well as gullible parents who think they are feeding their kids something wholesome and nutritious ("it's got carbs and protein from dairy"). Stop enabling the fake-food industry and fueling the health care crisis.
Alvin Thaler (New York)
Before you descend into a black hole of guilt and distress, read the SLATE article "Please Don't Panic Over the Chemicals in your Mac and Cheese." The NYTimes article does NOT cite scientific research, it cites a report from an advocacy group, with no scientists referenced. My daughter was completely hysterical about the damage she had done to her son when she read the article. Fortunately she is also a good researcher. She continued to look for other sources and found the more careful SLATE article. Shame on the NYTimes for not upholding a more critical standard for scientific rigor in reporting.
Foulds (Windsor, Vt.)
Once again, Europe is way ahead of us when it comes to food safety. Just to be on the safe side, they ban questionable ingredients at the first suspicion of toxicity. The FDA, on the other hand, waits until the damage is done. Who is the FDA working for, anyway? Not us.
Anna D (MA)
When the oil industry funds a study, the study is immediately branded as being tainted and biased by the environmentalism industry. Well, the same can be said about the environmentalism industry. When they fund a study, like this one, it is equally fair to say this is a tainted and biased study. It cuts both ways.
Max (San Francisco, CA)
Except the oil industry actually leads to real health issues, deaths and destruction, while if this study you have a problem with leads to less people consuming fake-food we will be all better off. Nothing equivalent about it Anna D.
Chris (Paris, France)
What does the "environmentalism" industry have to gain? They're not selling anything, except perhaps influence. The oil industry, on the other hand...
Dave (Poway, CA)
That is why you need to take a close look at the evidence being presented and consider to what extent the results have been biased by funding of the sponsor. In this case it is a lab that contracted to make some pretty challenging measurements. They seem to have no bias and produced the measurements they were paid to produce. They did not go any further and make any risk assessment. Nor did the sponsor. Nor did the NYT article. The risk is not well known. If you are not concerned about the risk, have at it. If you are, avoid highly processed foods since they pickup phthalates in the processing and packaging.
Francine Pearson (Hilo, Hawaii)
After reading the article I'm left with some questions.
Do these chemicals accumulate in the body?
How could the food and other industries rid themselves of these chemicals in the manufacturing and packaging processes?
Does my favorite organic mac n cheese product, Amy's, contain phthalates?
Do all fatty foods that come in packaging contain these chemicals? Cheese? Dairy products? Meats? Frozen foods with cream sauces? Mayonnaise?
It's high time Americans require the FDA to be our watchdog and remove harmful foods and drugs from the shelves of our markets.
Thomas Timlen (Singapore)
Six suggestions to avoid phthalates, and the idea of switching to a plant-based diet is not mentioned? Is anyone at the NYT aware of the increasing numbers of vegans in the global population, partly as a result of increasing awareness of unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods?
Mike (Pennsylvania)
It is too soon to report on this. This study hasn't been peer reviewed so it hasn't been vetted for public consumption. This effectively tells people to jump to conclusions.
marlena (bklyn)
i tried making homemade mac and cheese, i thought it was delicious, my young children hated it.
barbara (nyc)
There are so many non food substances in packaged food and contaminants in meats and fish. People are increasingly not healthy. Best to be as discriminating as you can and likely better to eat less.
Goetzylla (San Francisco)
when in doubt go without!....
It is quite easy to eat home made food with natural ingredients (although sometimes a bit more pricey than junk food). To whip together s simple and delicious pasta sauce is really not a miracle....what about:
Agil olio..... Pesto (homemade please) or Carbonara....
There is a completely home made German version of Mac and cheese called Kaesespaetzle which is delicious too.... flour eggs milk salt onions and cheese..... no chemicals whatsoever if you get organic cheese.....
Sam (Seoul)
Nytimes, I have some advice - while preparing mac and cheese from scratch, why not go ahead and prepare your own pasta machine and cheese from scratch? I've heard you can get some great deals on pasta machines from Amazon. Also, there's plenty of information available on how to milk cows and curd cheese available on Youtube. Check it out people!
Stacy (Manhattan)
My big pet peeve when my kids were elementary school aged was the number of times they would go to a friend's house after school and be fed mac-n-cheese for "dinner" before I picked them up - usually around 5 pm. My daughter, especially, used to ask: "Can I have a real dinner when we get home?" I didn't know about phthalates, but it just didn't seem like a good idea to continually feed your child some shiny concoction out of a box with next to no nutritional content.

Feeding young children isn't hard. They tend to prefer plain, simple foods like a baked chicken leg or a one egg omelet with mild cheddar, some cut up raw veggies (carrots, celery, sweet peepers), a chunk of roasted potato or sweet potato, and a glass of milk or water. It takes litle time or effort.
macduff15 (Salem, Oregon)
How about the m&c recipe I use, which was published in the Times in 2012?
Paul (Sarasota)
This article is over the top. There is no indication that the product is dangerous.
Chris (Paris, France)
Maybe read the article once more.
Margie Ranc (Fort Worth)
I can make my own Mac and Cheese easily, I estimate max 30 minutes. I don't spend much on the ingredients. I think the estimates for doing it yourself in the article are way off.
zach1 (washington state)
The article never explains what levels of these chemicals were found nor what levels cause harm or are of concern.
I read the whole article but I was left with more questions and I get tired of stories that always place chemicals as bad.
LMK (Illinois)
The toxic level of phtalates is ~1 g of phtalates for 1 kg of body weight.
But the levels of phtalates in all the cheeses tested has 0.000010 g for 1 kg of cheese.
You'd have to eat ~100,000,000 kg of cheese to reach toxic levels.

Perfect example of fear mongering of "chemicals" and scientific illiteracy that is perpetuated from a top media source.

Some of the phtalates were more prevelant in powdered cheese than cheese blocks, but not at a statistically significant level. But all of this data is at such a low of a level it does not impact your health.

If we look at the original report, it's 1) not peer reviewed; 2) the cover page is written from a consumer advocacy group and 3) the lab results are written like a poor undergraduate lab report where they are SUPER proud of using an internal standard method tbh. 4) Has 20-30% uncertainty in their measurements 5) The results of 20 samples are redacted/blacked out.

I'm so angry that this was one of the most popular articles on The New York Times. Can journalists do their freaking job?
marymary (washington, dc)
In other realms, mass tort actions against chemical manufacturer(s) of weed killers recently ground to a halt when it was revealed that the "carcinogen" research was unsound.

All these dangers may need to be taken with a grain of salt, as the old folks used to say, before salt itself, like the sun, was declared to be unhealthy.
Sue V (NC)
If you actually read the article carefully, the journalist includes a quote from Heather Patisaul, a professor of biological sciences. She states that "although the concentration of phthalates in food may be quite low, measured in ppb, THEY ARE STILL PRESENT AT HIGHER LEVELS THAN THE NATURAL HORMONES IN YOUR BODY." Couple that with the next paragraph about the strong evidence that phthalates block the production of testosterone and can lead to birth defects, I think warning people about this chemical being in a food that some kids twice a day is not off base. Europe does not allow this chemical AT ALL in any plastics. Why not err on the side of caution?
LinVA (Virginia)
Thank you for your comment, it was much appreciated. If the article had been written with that information, it would not have the scare factor and promo for NYT food section.
David Konerding (San Mateo)
This article, and the advocacy group it describes ,completely fail to make a convincing argument for the dangers of small amounts of phthalates in food. If you have a strong argument (for example can demonstrate direct causality of health problems in humans, or even an estimate of the number of people affected), please provide that. So far all the evidence is circumstantial.
Brad Burns (Roanoke, TX)
But what is the amount at one time or taken in over a week or month that would lead to harmful effects? The toxicology is missing from this article. For example, mercury is everywhere. You can't make a 'blank' water sample anywhere, where you won't measure some, but in very, very small amounts. That these chemicals could be eliminated from processing like in the EU is good but does everyone need to avoid all processed mac n cheese? That would probably be an reaction
David (Brooklyn)
There are over 100 recipes for Mac 'n Cheese in the NYT Cooking and oodles more all over the web. It's just as easy to make from scratch at home using pure genetically modified ingredients instead of plastics.
Maple tree (CA)
I have a three-month old baby. Had I read this, I wouldn't have eaten so much mac and cheese from the box and string cheese during my pregnancy.
Queens Grl (NYC)
Seriously??? Don't you read the ingredients in the foods you eat?
Rochelle (Los Angeles)
40 years ago I retired boxed mac and cheese after a friend gave me a tip. Boil the mac, drain it and in the same pot add sour cream and grated cheddar, heat a few minutes until melted then return the mac to the pot and combine. Bake in a pan greased with butter for 25 min @ 350 until bubbly . Way better then any box and as you can see way healthier, and almost as easy. 1/4 lb mac, 1c sour cream 1c cheese( or experiment).
William Corcoran (Windsor, CT)
Affection, Dislike, Integrity, and Critical Thinking

People we dislike sometimes say things that are worth reflecting on.

People we like sometimes say things that can’t be validated.

Statements we like are sometimes false.

Statements we dislike are sometimes true.

Critical thinking involves applying due process with an open mind. It involves temporarily suspending emotion in favor of intellectual integrity.

Critical thinking involves fairness and impartiality, e.g., having the same evidentiary standards for liked statements as for disliked statements.

Near the heart of intellectual corruption is to be easier on what we like than on what we dislike.

Near the heart of intellectual integrity is the commitment to explaining the chain of reasoning from the evidentiary foundations to the conclusion being offered.

Near the heart of intellectual integrity is the commitment to not repeating to others statements that we do not know to be true.

Near the heart of intellectual integrity is the commitment to only repeating to others statements that we know to be true.
Cod (MA)
Artificially added chemicals also add to obesity in children and adults.
Something that is not discussed often enough publicly.
We too often blame the obese for their lack of motivation or eating habits when in reality the stew of chemicals brewing in our bodies, even at birth, also contribute to this epidemic.
These chemicals are not only in our food but in our water, air and soil and other manufactured products in our homes, including plastics.
Home building materials (flooring, insulation, carpets, pipes, etc.) contain toxic substances as does mattresses, furniture and pillows.
Even our new cars leech toxicity. Hard to avoid in today's world.
Barbara (SC)
It appears these are the new rules for people who don't want chemicals in their foods.

1. Use only non-porous glass, metal and other containers to store food.
2. Make everything from scratch with organic foods. (not as bad as it sounds if you make extra each time and freeze it.)
3. Choose low fat or no dairy.
4. Take your shoes off before entering the house. (I do this anyway to keep dirt from scratching my floors.)
5. Wash your hands when you come into your home or office, no matter where you've been.
Reality Check (New York, NY)
Hey, sounds like the fifties!
RM (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
I have one question: how do I avoid giving my infant whole milk dairy when that's the guideline that most every pediatrician in North America advocates, and what young children and infants need to grow? I DEEPLY resent the implication that I have to avoid something normal to compensate for the government and all its regulatory bodies not doing their job to protect me. That's what taxes ARE FOR.

If the wealth and influence of a corporation can overrule the duty to protect the wellbeing of millions—who are really the ones keeping the country going—then we're in a lot more trouble than we fully realize.
Brian (Los Angeles)
Dont give your children dairy. They dont need it and most of the world's longest living cultures rarely or never consume it.
Zandalee (KC)
RM I don't drink milk because of the pus in it from all of the antibiotics they give the cows because they insist on feeding them GMO corn which their bodies reject and makes them sick. Google FOX news mik cancer. There is actually very little nutritional value left in mik after it's been pastuerized. After they kill everything in the milk with high temps they add it back in using artificial vitamins. Also it tastes nothing like real milk. However, raw milk is very good for you and full of vitamins and minerals. Check Craigslist for a dairy farmer near you and check out his farm for yourselve. Use coconut milk or almond milk. Do not use soy mik as it is GMO. If I had a baby nowadays I would give it a bottle of bone broth every day. They love it and it has unbelivable health properties.
enzo11 (CA)
Probably the most scientifically illiterate article I've read yet.
ExPeterC (Bear Territory)
I 'm a Progan-only eat processed foods-so this is good news.
Rosie (NYC)
Kudos to the food industry and its marketing machine! They have masterly brainwashed the American public into defending them even though they are poisoning and killing them. I guess just like with any other addiction, a sugar, fat and salt addicted brain will defend its drug of choice till the very end. For those of you questioning the article, go ahead, keep eating processed junk. You are the one poisoning yourself or your children.
Max (San Francisco, CA)
Sorry to say Rosie from NYC is totally correct. And if we all refused to eat processed foods and insisted on organic and non-GMO food, we would reduce the amount of sickness and disease by an extraordinary percentage, and thus the amount spent on health care every year. The health and drug savings alone would easily pay for the extra cost of eating organic. If the new health care bill goes through, the incentive for insurance companies to pressure the food industry to slow down on their poison production would start to erode since pre-existing conditions would not have to be covered any longer.
Mr. Slater (Bklyn, NY)
The article starts by stating "Potentially" harmful chemicals, then "may" still be present in high concentrations in your child's favorite food. It was hard to continue reading after that. This speculative reporting and writing is just insane NYTimes.
Give us the facts not maybe!
terrytooth (RI)
If you had continued to read, you would have seen the facts- that an independent laboratory report confirmed the presence of phthalates in 29 out of 30 cheese products with highest concentrations found in boxed mac and cheese.
Neil (Los Angeles / New York)
You need a large coke with that!!!
Nancy fleming (Shaker Heights ohio)
The FDA is a sales rep for the chemical industry.Read the ingredients!!
If it wasn't in your grand mothers kitchen DONT EAT THE JUNK.
Rob (Switzerland)
phthalates = bad, this is obvious. Why are they banned in EU and the FDA classifies them as "indirect food additives". It is a consumer's right to know so we can make informed decisions. What's next? Eating mac and cheese is a pre-existing condition?
KJ (Tennessee)
I've found that all the things I grew to love when I was a broke student are bad for me. So I've had to revert back to what my mother served. Fresh, home-made meals.
Reality Check (New York, NY)
Hopefully you found a dutiful husband to cook for you!
Brent (Vancouver)
Best chance of that is if there are lots of low-testosterone males around. Oh wait ... the phthalates should take care of that.
Brent (Vancouver)
Best chance of that is if there are lots of low-testosterone males around. Oh wait ... the phthalates should take care of that.
Hank Campbell (New York, NY)
The American Council on Science and Health has been debunking this kind of 'any detectable chemical must be a pathogen' scaremongering for almost 40 years. The deeply flawed sensationalism foisted off as journalism here shows our work is never done - and is evidence for why the American public has lost confidence in corporate, page-view-driven science journalism.
Nicole (London)
Why is the actual report so heavily redacted? It seems like the most useful information for consumers is not accessible.
Dave (Poway, CA)
If you read the cover letter ( they state "The lab report is as received from the laboratory, except that we have blacked out references to specific product and brand names, and to non-cheese products run in the same batches."
Mary M.G. (New Jersey)
I also found Fishski! Mac and cheese. It is all natural, can be ordered on line and it's perfect to take for hiking or camping. And my kids love it! So do I. I highly recommend it!
"It's as easy as pie." Make it yourself and you won't have to worry about ingredients and levels of toxins. Cooking is relaxing and rewarding. Like, you're not poisoning your family. That alone eases the mind.
HT (Ohio)
When it comes to phthalates, it is not true that you if you "make it yourself, you won't have to worry about ingredients and levels of toxins." Phthalates are used to make hard plastic materials more flexible, so that they can bend and flex iinstead of cracking and breaking. Phthalates are used to make flexible plastic tubing and plastic containers that can take an accidental blow without cracking or breaking. This kind of plastic is very common.

As the article states, these materials are used throughout the cheesemaking process. Cows drink water from plastic tubs; milking machines use plastic tubing, cheesmakers use plastic mixing bowls and paddles, and sell their product in plastic containers, and home cooks use rubberized plastic scrapers to clean their bowls. If any one of those plastic items contains a phthalate plasticizer, then small amounts of phthalates will appear in your homemade macaroni and cheese.

In other words, home cooking is a wonderful thing, but it does not prevent phthalates from ending up in your food. The concentration of these chemical species in the food you consume, and not whether you made it from scratch, truly is the essential question here.
Dave (Poway, CA)
But it is also clear that the more highly processed the food the exposure to non-natural chemicals. The point of the article is that if you do more of the processing yourself, and use some care, you can lower your exposure and the exposure of you family.
Alexandra Hamilton (NYC)
I truly hate to cook! It does not relax me. I just hate the whole boring day in day out process. Chopping veggies is boring. Things burn if you are not focused. Half the time my kids refuse to eat anything new or interesting. I do it because yes, it is healthier, but I loathe it.
Ann (NY)
To all those questioning the toxicity levels, do a search on hypospadias. Birth defects among male babies are increasing. Doctors who repair the birth defects will tell you there's an increase and it's likely due to environmental causes. 1 out of 200 male babies is born with this defect that requires a painful operation or multiple operations to repair before age 2.

The government is allowing us to poison our children before they are even born. We should all be upset.
Rodman (La Crescenta CA)
the government is not "Allowing". As several posts mention, we make choices to not cook fresh but go to convenience (for very good reasons admittedly) items.
Yes there could be better transparency of info, even if it says the data is not conclusive.
And BTW I totally GET how yummy boxed mac n cheese is. Too yummy perhaps because some kids don't prefer the homemade!
HT (Ohio)
They're questioning the toxicity levels because the Times didn't provide that information.

It's not surprising that phthalates are in macaroni and cheese. Nothing is utterly pure because atoms and molecules cannot be glued down. Your food has traces of every surface, every air stream, every liquid it has ever come into contact with. If you cook in stainless steel dishes, there will be chromium atoms in your food because steel has minute quantities of that element. If you store your milk in glass then there will be some aluminum atoms in your food, because container glass contains aluminum oxide, etc.

The question isn't whether they're present, but whether they're present in sufficiently high concentrations to pose a danger. That's what the readers who are asking about toxicity levels want to know.
Zandalee (KC)
Rodman Sorry but you are totally incorrect. The government does not JUST allow these poisons, they aid and abet the criminals who put them in there. The manufacturers of all these products know what is in their products and either falsify the data in their studies, pay for outside studies to be biased, or rely on the lobbyists they buy in government. These are facts, easily found. We have all kinds of harmful substances here that have been found to be harmful in studies done by the Europeans, and have been banned over there for years. It's crazy, but even China who is known for tainted food, has better, healthier food than we do because they don't have all of the chemicals.
Thomas Busse (San Francisco)
And now let's have a lawsuit about school lunches involving Mac And Cheese and profit from the self serving fear of Moral Outrage. I'm sure the State of California and the French have found Mac and Cheese is known to the State of California to cause Cancer and Reproductive Harm and the FDA and Trump refuse to believe it while CNN is suffering unjust criticism of its exposure of false Russian research by Big MacNCheese.
Anonymous (USA)
Ah... dinner time panic/ battles. As working mom (a lab rat with inflexible schedule), I survived by being flexible and of course with help of very understanding and helpful husband.
We cooked from scratch most of the times, with one kid being highly allergic, other turned out to be vegan and I being life long vegetarian, we had to make different items, always balanced nutritionally with every food group. And we loved cook.
Anonymous (USA)
One of my favorite things about visiting my parents in India, is I get to make homemade meals with freshest vegetables, that were perhaps harvested 3-4 hours before. Simple sautéing brings out so much flavor. I do not even have to use any spices or masala as I use them here in US just to coax some flavor and taste. Freshness is the key.
Anonymous (USA)
How difficult is it to make macaroni and cheese from scratch? You cook and drain macaroni, grate and sprinkle sharp cheddar on a low flame, gently stir to mix.

Even a 7 year old can make it ( under adult supervision, of course).
Nothing beats the flavor. My kids loved variations s well, when It was supplemented sautéed onions, or with broccoli or with vinegared jalapeño and adobe season
ecco (connecticut)
regardless...mak and cheese addicts can keep pasta sealed and ready in the fridge, prepped once a week or more if the need is life-saving, reheat on stovetop, add 2 to 4 T of chicken broth to keep moist and sprinkle (from bag or grater) cheese over til melted...other ingredients to taste, but careful not to add prep time if convenience is the goal...easier than pie.
Reality Check (New York, NY)
Sealed in a glass jar with a metal lid, that is.
Karen Spencer (New Rochelle)
Or use a glass container with a glass lid. These are so hard to find today. Almost all Corningware has a plastic lid these days. I have a number of my grandmother's lidded glass containers that I use constantly. These are probably more than 30 years old and in perfect shape! I am always looking to find more. I hope glass makes a comeback!
common sense advocate (CT)
It looks like processed foods wrapped in plastics are the culprit - list the safe dairy alternatives for immediate shopping in another article please, and do a series on what (realistic) near and long-term changes food manufacturers need to make.
Rosie (NYC)
Study or no study, just read the label of any package of Store-bought Mac n Cheese and you will see it is nothing but junk with obscene amounts of sugar, fat and sodium to keep you happily addicted.
Can you please name the brands? Is Annie's Mac and Cheese part of the pack. They position themselves as an "healthy" option and are branded " organic".
Queens Grl (NYC)
Save your self money and make it from scratch.
maryt (Charlotte)
Here's an idea: make it yourself. For Pete's sake, the name is LITERALLY the recipe.
Michael Sierchio (Berkeley, California)
This is an extremely sloppy article that seems to have been written by the PR folks for the advocacy group, KleanUpKraft. There's no science here. No peer review. No beef.

"Toxic chemicals don’t belong in any Kraft cheeses." is their slogan. Bad news -
toxic chemicals occur naturally in everything, including broccoli.

Were you to eat a large portion of Kraft Mac & Cheese (say, an entire 7.25 oz box, about 200g), you'd be consuming (if the study is accurate) 180 micrograms of phthalate. Nothing to worry about.

For aesthetic reasons, I prefer to make my own macaroni and cheese.
Daniel (Framingham, MA)
No peer review, no citations, no data interpretation, no risk assessment. The one thing this "study" has is a clear conflict of interest.
SusanS (Reston, Va)
Make mac n cheese at home with fundamental ingredients; compare to boxed Kraft; you don't need peer review, etc.
Alexis (New York)
I'm surprised by the New York Times lack of research to substantiate their broad statement that mac n cheese is bad. MAC N CHEESE IS THE ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD! As reported last week in WSJ, boutique foods are taking over the mass brands like Kraft's because the public wants and will pay for a better, healthier product. Have you tried fishski provision mac n cheese with green and red chilis? It's delicious, no preservatives and easy to make! Created by a couple who are devoted to the outdoors, they advocate "Eat for an Adventure" -a healthy one in fact!!!!
Ryan (Portland)
Don't forget fear mongering.
Sam (Pasadena)
This article is useless without any description of the minimum toxic dose of phthalates. Anything is toxic in high enough doses; nothing is toxic at a low enough dose. Without knowing a) the toxic dose of a molecule and b) how much is actually in a food, there is absolutely no way for a reader to know whether they should care about that molecule being in food.
Ryan (Portland)
Ah... Don't worry about that. Just worry about whether or not your dairy products are low enough in fat, or whether your perfumes and toiletries are killing you, or if your food is touching plastic, or how dusty is too dusty of a house. Because obsessive compulsive disorders are entirely innocuous...
Mary Ann (Seattle)
Why focus only on mac & cheese? If the pthalates are coming via the processing and packaging, any highly processed food probably has it, especially those with high fat content. ???
Anita T (New York)
In response to James D, I couldnt agree more. I stumbled upon FishSki mac and cheese while vacationing in Colorado-the best part it's also available online per his link. Their mac and cheese is completely GMO free, so not only is it good for you but is super tasty as well...
Sharton (Earth)
I understand that it also contains no nuts, rubber products, or dry cleaning fluids. So it must be good - right?
Just because it reads like the GMOs are free, doesn't mean there are no other harmful additives. Clearly, the majority of comments here, and the "Like" numbers indicate that most people didn't read the NYT report. This is a news story, not someone looking for a Pulitzer. It is about the study, not THE study.

The New Your Times told the story. There are plenty of links withing the article for couch-scientists to look up the peer reviews, citations and such. IF they read the story.

If Daniel Framingham, MA and Sam Pasadena read the it, they'd realize that the details are in the links provided by the reporter, and they would be shaming the author of the study, not the reporter (or Further more, such a study is not expected to have peer review. The study doesn't need peer review because and all that was presented, was the products brands that were found to contain Phthalates. I doubt you read this far before pounding out a retort, but it's for those that care to read.

Your respondent, James D opened with a complaint "Why doesn't this "study" list which powdered cheese manufacturers, other than Kraft". Well, as the story points out, it does list them and it's 28 pages more than he counted. Obviously, not reading the study rendered the rest of his -stuff- as nothing more than a wall of uninformed text. Read, read - read. Then comment.
James D (Colorado)
Why doesn't this "study" list which powdered cheese manufacturers, other than Kraft via the KleanUpKraft organization, and mac and cheese companies (i.e. Annie's, Horizon, etc) were tested? And where are the citations and links to the actual study rather than just the 2-page summary?

Regardless of the study's validity, most mac and cheese on the market utilities highly processed powdered cheese and some include warnings stating "may contain GMOs" on the packaging. Only five years ago, General Mills, which owns Annie's, even donated to causes lobbying against California Proposition 37. Prop 37 would have required food manufacturers to label the presence of genetically engineered ingredients. Although a federal GMO bill was signed in 2016, the mandatory, nation-wide implementation by 2018 will be unknown in the current political climate. I quit buying boxed mac and cheese altogether for these reasons. However, I have found a mac and cheese company, called FishSki Provisions, that uses non-GMO macaroni, 100% real cheese, and organic chiles. It is delicious! Now I can feel good about eating mac and cheese again.

In the end, although this study lacks any and all proper review and citation, at least the article triggered some great side points and discussion.
Sharton (Earth)
Everyone that perused, instead of read, the story, might think to read all of the story. There is a link to a PDF that is THIRTY pages long and contains brand names using Phthalates, or phthalate esters, or esters of phthalic acid (albeit REDACTED) - to protect the innocent manufacturers of course.
The report looks like Hillary Clinton's emails.
Patricia (Boston, MA)
I clicked the links. All identifying information is blacked out as if it were classified, so it's not possible to see which brands were studied.

If you have a link to the study that is not censored, perhaps you would care to share it.
Michael Sierchio (Berkeley, California)
Really? You're bringing GMOs into a discussion of toxicity?
Robert (Earth)
So what is the Actual Dosage of the chemical per serving, and what's the LD50?

Given even stuff like Apples have natural poisons in them, this is sounding a lot like a fear mongering report missing any real critical data.
Jenny Alderden (Boise)
I agree. And it would be helpful if the source was peer reviewed research instead of an advocacy group's non- peer reviewed document.
Jan Mueller (Bremen, Germany)
You don`t want to come near anywhere to the LD50 (leathal dose for 50% of the tested individuals) its about 3 times more dangerous than russian roulet.
Michelle (New Mexico)
Toxicity claims are meaningless without any context. A quick search drawing info from a review article (Albert, O.; Jegou, B. (2013). "A critical assessment of the endocrine susceptibility of the human testis to phthalates from fetal life to adulthood". Human Reproduction Update. 20 (2): 231–49.) indicates that endocrine toxicity can occur at about 250 milligrams /kg/day in rats (or 250,000 micrograms/kg/day). A 60 lb child would have to ingest 6.8 million micrograms daily. The mac and cheese has ~100 micrograms per kilogram in it - the child would have to eat >29 thousand POUNDS of mac and cheese EVERY DAY. According to the cited article, other phthalate toxicities occur in higher concentrations (i.e., more cheese to eat). Does this warrant a fear-inspiring headline? Seems like either sloppy or intentionally misleading reporting to me. Either way, this widely shared article seems irresponsible given the other things we have to worry about in the world.
Enrique Lasansky (Tucson)
As a grandpa I'd like to know which brand out of the thirty doesn't contain phthalates!
t.h. (new york, ny)
You don't need to bake homemade mac and cheese:
1 box elbow macaroni ($1.29) or other favorite pasta shape
1 8 oz bag shredded cheese ($2.19) or 1-2 cups cheddar, grated
1 dollop (kitchen spoon heaped) sour cream (tangy) or cream cheese (creamy) ($0.05) Total: $3.53
Boil water (8 min), cook pasta (8 min). Drain pasta and return to hot pot you just boiled it in. Throw in as much shredded cheese as desired for cheesiness. Stir in dollop of sour cream or cream cheese depending on your flavor preference. Cover with lid and let sit 1-5 minutes. Stir for smooth, cheesy pasta coating. Serve. Feeds 4 easily - 2 kids and 2 adults or 1 kid and 1 adult with lunch for the next day. Variations admiring friends have added - frozen peas/corn/veggies/hot dogs/other favorite item of the child. You can even do whole wheat pasta if it won't incite a dinner time revolt. Total time: 20 minutes

Things to do in those 20 minutes: empty and fill dishwasher or do the dishes, post to Facebook or Instagram, call your mom, clean the kitchen, put in a load of laundry, fold the clothes in the dryer, whatever other task you haven't done as a full time working parent

Stuff your kid/kids are doing during this time: homework, coloring, playing with the dog/cat/siblings, helping you set the table, learning how to cook

This meal can be made even on a hot plate, camp stove or campfire!
Carol R (Rockville MD)
One more thing you could do in the 20 minutes, write and post a practical comment on how to spend the 20 minutes. Thank you.
maryt (Charlotte)
Call your mom for just 20 minutes? Hahaha
Unfortunately, your shredded cheese picked up chemicals from the plastic pouch it came in, the sour cream picked up chemicals from the plastic tub it came in, and the the elbow macaroni picks up chemicals from the processed box it came in. Some alternative. Enjoy!
Anna (Colorado)
This is simply poor reporting. Detection limits for many chemicals are so low that they are "detectable" at levels where they pose no health risk (think radioactive cesium in post-WWII wine). What are the actual levels of phthalates in mac and cheese and how do they compare to a person's overall exposure from all sources? Risk assessors actually make quantitative evaluations about limits for these types of things, but I see none were contacted for this story. This is a poorly researched, clickbait story with a clickbait title and it worked because here I am. I'm disappointed.
Has the production process changed in recent years, adding plastic tubing or other parts that weren't used years ago? Boxed mac & cheese has been around for decades, surely if pthalates were leaking into packages all this time we would have some evidence of the consequences. I can't think of a packaged food more ubiquitous than mac and cheese, so evidence cannot be in short supply. I hope this is spurring follow-up studies.
Beth Mann (Long Beach Island)
Evidence of the consequences: check the rising amount of endocrine-related disease (which can often lead to cancer). Its not like you grow a horn on your head or something. There's all sorts of foods that have been around for decades--that doesn't make them all good for us. I used to drink green soda when I was a kid...I don't anymore.
Ryan (Portland)
I think there needs to be a legitimate study in order for follow-ups to be spurred...
A Scientist (NYC, NY)
There's also cyanide in almonds and apple juice. But trace amounts because seeds and apple cores contain cyanide.
But...what makes something toxic is dose.
Dose makes the poison.
Notice how they go out and try to chemical-scare you without giving a scientific analysis of the dose of their alleged poison on average human weight vs typical consumption of the Mac 'n cheese. What's the LD50? My guess is in order to reach "toxic" levels, one would have to eat gallons of Mac 'n cheese in one sitting. This is similar to the BPA scare when people were injecting mice with milliliters of pure BPA a day in order to get a detrimental response. Then they crowed that humans can react the same way as those mice by ingesting only trace amounts of BPA. Yeah....false equivalency BS. #DoTheyEvenToxicologyBro
Also this whole article is based on nothing but a blogger "advocacy group" and no peer reviewed articles. Holy bad science journalism. Like straight up anti-vaxxer level chemophobia fear mongering. Your sources are bad, and you should feel bad.
Honestly it reads like it's straight out of food babe...the queen of chemiphobia.
Judy Brill (Eureka, CA)
Interesting read. But what are the brand names and rankings? Sidebar please.
Anne Landis (Providence,RI)
So, feeding my children boxed Mac and Cheese (Annie's or Kraft) makes me a bad person? I get it. I make many different kinds of homemade mac and cheese, but don't need to get shamed forever using the boxed stuff.
Beth Mann (Long Beach Island)
Not shamed so much as just a poor food choice that has little to no health value (or possible health consequences). Boxed mac and cheese? I don't need an article to know that's not nutritious food. Who trusts powdered "cheese product"?
Ryan (Portland)
Those involved in the study should be ashamed, Anne. Not you.
Neil (Los Angeles / New York)
Bon appetit! Eat up kids! Hmmm
Tom E Wolff (Wauwatosa Wi)
The food of the unfortunate and so we poison them ...
when will this horrifying and obscene practice end?????
Bryan (New York)
Phthalates are present in significant concentrations in all eight food groups and across the world. Singling out mac and cheese, and the United States, is a total miss.

At its most extreme, in a 2013 paper released by the French Technical Industrial Center Authority, virgin olive oil in France had DEHP levels of 2300 ug/kg. The powdered cheese study by Kleanup Kraft, which is the basis for this article, showed 106 ug/kg.

And even more bizarre, Kleanup Kraft itself heavily references a 2014 study on phthalates in food. In that study, seven of the eight major food groups, including vegetables, have a higher average concentration of phthalates than that found in this study of powdered cheeses.

So what's happening here? Why focus on the U.S. and mac and cheese when phthalates are present in nearly all foods, and in greater concentrations than powdered cheese? Wouldn't it have been a bigger story to go after the faults of the entire food supply chain?

I'm sad for all of the people who will see this story and will be scared of a particular food group for no particular reason. And I also think there was a bigger story here that was missed.
Ethrop (Montreal)
I think the biggest story of them all is the fact that the Journal of Record regularly prints bad science information in the form of nutritional advice. Food paranoïa is becoming a major 21st century issue and the NYT is contributing to it, because it sells to the left the same way bad climate science sells to the right.
AME (Midwest)
It's easy to say parents should stop feeding their children boxed mac and cheese, but that meal has saved my family from a hangry meltdown on more than one occasion. The best alternative I've found to boxed foods - the Instant Pot. Yes, it's another kitchen appliance, but it's one that provides one-pot, walk-away-and-forget-it cooking, which is key to family meals. I've had mine for almost two years and I don't buy any boxed food anymore, because I can make it just as easily in the Instant Pot. That includes mac and cheese, dirty rice, pasta and meat sauce, and burrito bowls. If we want American families to start cooking, we need to give them simple solutions (that's what boxed/process foods do). The Instant Pot is a good first step.
Another2cents (Oakland, CA)
- Not to mention that the nutritional value vs. caloric content in all Mac n' Cheese should make anyone shudder... big bowls of goo. Thanks for the reminder of harmful chemicals in our lives, and let's all support the F.D.A. and our governmental agencies that work to keep us safe and well.
NK (Chicago)
Using the word "chemicals" as it is in the headline is disingenuous and misleading. Perhaps "harmful chemicals" would be more appropriate. There is nothing inherently harmful or negative about a chemical; harm depends on the context and perspective. Chemicals exist everywhere in nature.
Catherine (Martha's Vineyard)
Would love to hear the scientists behind this study address the plastic piping that replaces metal pipes in nearly all restoration work and new construction. Sweden (and other!) European countries have been using them for years but haven't seen much discussion on this topic. Do these pipes also 'leak' the same chemical toxins when hot water gushes through them?
a goldstein (pdx)
The plight of poorer people's ability to make healthier food choices would be reduced if more of the foods they can afford were made healthier, i.e. less salt and simple carbohydrates, more high quality protein and certainly safer packaging. Food scientists are smart people who should be mandated by their employers to re-engineer foods that are healthful, flavorful and just as stable as the current processed foods. Also, we should expand the use of irradiated foods like meats and poultry so that the incidence of food poisoning is reduced.
David (California)
This article fails to make any attempt to quantify the problem. What do we know about concentrations and exposure levels? Modern chemical analysis is extremely sensitive and can detect very, very low levels of contaminants. And why, when any food product is suspect, are we told to eat more vegetables?
dognose 2 (Richmond Calif.)
what's the 1 boxed mac n' cheese that's mentioned in the article that was tested that had least phthalates? Geez. Don't YOU want to know the name of THAT 1?
Jenith (US)
I always debated if I should eat Mac and cheese as my daily meals or Ramen Noodles. This gives me a perfect reason to switch completely to Ramen Noodles. I only eat 3 meals a day. In between I snack on Snickers and Mountain Dew. I don't like late night dinners, as it is not so healthy. So I rather eat something light like a box of Pringles. I feel much better about my diet now that I have learnt the secret of Mac and Cheese. I sure will miss Mac and Cheese, it's like breaking up with your first true love. I sure wish they would tell me the name of that 1 box of Mac and Cheese that is still safe. This feels like Zombie Apocalypse!!!
Constanza (Argentina)
All of them.
xmas (Delaware)
This shouldn't be news. Adding chemicals and unnatural ingredients is how the food industry can sell us ready-made mac and cheese done in 2 minutes instead of the 15 it takes to make from scratch. Any time you buy processed ready-made food you should expect that you're also getting something more often found in a lab than in nature. I'm not on the organic bandwagon but I also don't buy anything I can make myself with a little more effort.
John Tudek (Morgantown, WV)
So the big thing about this article is how it's beneath both the NYT's and particularly the NYT's Science journalistic standards. The main "evidence" for this article is from a advocacy piece from the website, NOT a peer-reviewed journal. While said evidence may be accurate, it is impossible to judge based on the primary source. The back half of the article reads like a handouf from that organization.

Now, before everyone gets in an uproar, there IS a conversation to be had about the effects of phthalates on the young and the recent peer-reviewed evidence is currently leaning towards limiting kids' exposure to them. By repeating the talking points of one extreme, this article does little to advance that conversation. It does however, make the reader start to question the rigor with which the NYT vets their science reporting.

The NYT has some of the highest journalistic standards in the world, and is currently doing amazing work on the presidential front and in international news. It is because of their high journalistic standards and not in spite of that this article stands out as so ill-fitting.

I hope the NYT will review their vetting process and limit these articles in the future. And I hope more readers will take the time to follow the links and understand how actual science works and how advocacy groups are attempting to undermine the great benefits of science to promote their psudeoscientific 'fake news'.
Joseph Rhodes (Denver)
The document linked to here is not a study per se - it is not published and has not undergone peer review. It also says nothing about dose toxicity (fundamentally important). If you click through to the federal study, it specifically states that the sample size was too small to draw any conclusions.

By all means, research this further if you're concerned. And I understand distrust of the chemical industry (lead and DDT, anyone?). But what's presented as fact here is not scientifically defensible in its own right.
Amanda Abrams (Durham, NC)
It's amazing--out of almost 300 comments, only a handful point the finger at our government for failing to keep us safe. This is what we pay taxes for, and yet, as a few others have pointed out, we have one of the weakest food and drug approval systems in the western world. But instead of demanding something better, many people here are judging parents' choices and blaming them. That's the essence of the entire debate currently going on over having decent health insurance, a safety net, and a government tasked with genuinely protecting us.
William Wintheiser (Minnesota)
That's it. The final straw. When you caint truss mac n cheez!!! I no longer wish to live! What's next spam!!!!!
David G (Monroe, NY)
This has to be one of the funniest comments sections I've read at the NYTimes!

Healthcare, nuclear proliferation, rising sea levels, global warming, and on and on.

But suddenly MAC 'N' CHEESE. Is the greatest national danger.

Get a grip, people. Or stay in your safe room.
Martha (NYC)
Sorry, but how we eat is killing us.
CBW (Maryland)
Sorry but we're all going to die and probably not from mac & cheese.
Fritz (SF,CA)
Why, today, are we still talking about this.? This is not new information, it is been around for a while.

The answer is really quite simple. The food industry buys off Congress and appoints their own people as the watch dogs. And of course, every member of Congress is on the take from the six mega-corporations to make this product and the rest of the other processed food.

It would be easy to blame them but is it but it is actually we, the voters, who continue to put these corrupt politicians back in office.

And we could wonder why this is not headlines in the New York Times-- that they are part of the establishment.

Actually, that might be a part of the truth. No where in this article does the Times talk about the corrupt political system the perpetuates this deadly practice--the actual cause of poisoned macaroni and cheese.
Vesicant (Not New York)
Yes, and also, we should all avoid the evil oxidane, which is poisonous in high quantities.
drdeanster (tinseltown)
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have a crazy system where companies don't have to prove that the chemicals they use are safe, it's up to the government to prove that they aren't. Every time the GOP is in charge, they want to defund or eliminate the agencies that purportedly are responsible for keeping us safe.
Now if something is blocking testosterone, might that not impact a developing child's sexuality? But the Republicans will holler about "conversion therapy" and bathroom choices while encouraging everyone to eat more mac'n'cheese. Because the checks from Kraft keep clearing.
Jen (Pittsburgh)
I was interested to read this "study" after seeing it on the news this morning. The link takes me to a two page summary of "research" done by a group called KleanupKraft. Has the NYT heard of conflict of interest in research?

Further, phalates are everywhere - even our steering wheels. Associations between phalates and birth problems have been found in research but only in one lab. Association is not causation.

True, they are everywhere. But shouldn't be.
The article highlights one lab's findings but it certainly looks as though the evidence is overwhelmingly leaning towards confirmation of contamination.

MKKW (Baltimore)
Look into the studies of marine mammals in the St Lawrence River. Science research doesn't always happen in a lab.
Joseph Rhodes (Denver)
Agreed. No peer review or independent study. And when you click through to the CPSC study linked to in the report, it explicitly says that the sample size is too small to reliability estimate magnitude of exposure.
Eric (Los Angeles​)
Why are a majority of the comments here crazy?
wbj (ncal)
Ate a bit too much boxed Mac and cheese perhaps?
Lsmith (Bellingham,Wa)
Let's just ban phthalates as they have in Europe. This article isn't just about mac and cheese, folks! They're everywhere. The instructions listed at the end of the article designed to help us "avoid" contact with phthalates would turn my family's life upside down. Why should we contort ourselves when a simpler solution could be at hand? Industry, get with it!
AJ Scal (Rockville, MD)
Another health article ruined by calls for dramatic action. Don't drink whole milk! Don't walk in your house with shoes worn outside! Don't wear perfume or cologne! Beware of moisturizers and creams! Death is lurking toward you! Perhaps a crucifix should be shoved in front of all things made of plastic?

How did an article go from a reasonable warning about boxed mac and cheese to this?

I believe the science but come on - these things are part of our lives. These actions are way too strict. It borders on living in a bubble bec something is out to get you - unless the bubble is made of plastic. Then you're toast.
You can do what you wish with the information provided. If, after hearing the warnings, you decide to still use tainted products, then so be it. But there are people who appreciate this information and will look for alternatives. You can buy products that are safer but you have to want to do it. It's all on you. Your health is worth it.
Dr. P.Hil (Delray Beach, Florida)
Wow, you mean Velvetta is really good tasting plastic that makes your endocrine glands cringe?
Jerry Pruitt (East Lansing)
FDA utterly worthless
Nancy (CO)
I wish NYT would ALWAYS include a link to source info on these articles.
Daisy (undefined)
Wouldn't all cheese have phthalates? Most cheese is high in fat and comes wrapped in plastic.

What about other food that is wrapped in plastic?

The information about phthalates should not be limited to mac n cheese.
It's not. Read the whole article.
WhoZher (Indiana)
Get your cheese from a reliable cheese shop or cheesemonger and you'll be spared most of the plastic.
Moira (San Antonio, Texas)
Cheesemonger?! LOL.
Sara (Washington DC)
I noted, the experimental results, apparently regular cheese can have just as many phalates. And the study sponsor has an inherent bias against big food.
RichWa (Banks)
If a product is labeled "USDA Organic" yet contain phthalates the product is supposed to lose its certification and an investigation is supposed to occur to find out how/why the product became contaminated with a prohibited substance. Any "organic" product tested and found contaminated should be reported to the certifier of the product and complaint filed with the USDA AMS National Organic Program.
Joseph Rhodes (Denver)
There are no organic certification rules for testing of a finished foodstuff. Prohibited substances are only relevant to the growing process and ingredients added during processing. As this is a (spurious) case of leaching from packaging and containers used in processing, the standards don't apply.

If you have a different source, please pass it along.
RichWa (Banks)
Here are the regulations and OFPA. The simple fact of the case is that whether intentional or unintentional, "spurious" or not, according to OFPA and numerous USDA organic regulations, these products are not eligible to be certified as USDA Organic.

7 U.S. Code § 6510 - Handling
(a) In generalFor a handling operation to be certified under this chapter, each person on such handling operation shall not, with respect to any agricultural product covered by this chapter—
(6) use any bag or container that had previously been in contact with any substance in such a manner as to compromise the organic quality of such product;

(a) The handler of an organic handling operation must implement measures necessary to prevent the commingling of organic and nonorganic products and protect organic products from contact with prohibited substances.

(b) The following are prohibited for use in the handling of any organically produced agricultural product or ingredient labeled in accordance with subpart D of this part:
(2) The use or reuse of any bag or container that has been in contact with any substance in such a manner as to compromise the organic integrity of any organically produced product or ingredient placed in those containers, unless such reusable bag or container has been thoroughly cleaned and poses no risk of contact of the organically produced product or ingredient with the substance used.
Jenny Alderden (Boise)
This isn't even remotely true. Almost everything has almost any chemical- concentration is what's important.
David (Brooklyn)
What products, for goodness sake!?
T (NC)
All of them. Basically any product that's prepared using plastic containers, hoses, or tubing, and any product that's stored in plastic containers or plastic-lined packaging.
Buttercup (Brooklyn)
Many new studies support consuming whole organic grass fed cow milk. Low fat and skin products have been debunked.
Kareena (Florida)
Like Nanna used to say, everything in moderation.
Hormone-disrupting chemicals included?!
Gregory (NYC)
Is nothing sacred? Next you're going to tell us that twinkies have sugar!
Delores Porch (Corvallis OR)
I can't believe the people who asked where the technical information was. Did anyone touch or click on the light blue words in the article? Ever hear of hyperlinks? Jeesh!
Sarah (Baltimore)
I wish all the people who are unhelpfully commenting, "Why in the world would you serve your kids this junk in the first place!?" also tell me how many kids they have, how old the kids are, do they - as parents - work full-time and how late do they work each night, how much money does their family have for Organic and non-processed food, how far do they live from a store or market with organic options, what activities are their kids involved in after school, how picky are their kids when to comes to eating. Thanks.
Kathleen (Denver)
I have a two yo and work full time, as does my husband. My child is not the least bit picky, because I have always served actual adult food for all of his meals and allowed him to eat as much or as little as he likes.
Instant mac n cheese tastes like utter garbage. When that's what a human palate has become attached to, something is off.
Apple6 (Colorado)
Kathleen, how nice that everything has lined up so harmoniously for you. Here's the thing, though: you can do all the "right" things - including introducing whole adult foods in infancy - and STILL have a kid who's incredibly picky. The fact that you have a child who eats whatever healthy items you serve is largely luck of the draw. There are tons of variables at play here, and I get very uncomfortable when people exhibit self-righteousness about how much cleaner their lifestyles are than other people's. And worse, when they attribute things that truly aren't completely under their control, like the temperament their child is blessed with, to stellar parenting practices. I think we all need to start with the assumption that we have no idea what other people's stressors are, what their ideal lifestyles should be, what mix of nature and nurture is contributing to the health and happiness of their kids, or how they should conduct their family business. A good dose of humility and compassion never hurt anyone, and it would do wonders for our ability to connect with kindness to those who for a multitude of reasons struggle more than we do. And then after that basis has been established and if you feel moved to share some tips that have helped you, by all means bring on the awesome homemade mac and cheese recipes! And budgeting tips! And kitchen hacks for making healthy foods for the week without having to cook every meal from scratch!
Moira (San Antonio, Texas)
Oh please, I have 3 kids and two were picky eaters despite only eating what we ate. To this day my adult daughter will not eat tomatoes or anything with them, including pizza or spaghetti, citrus fruits or bell peppers. As soon as she could read she would read the recipe for what was for dinner and then after sitting at the table with all of us (a requirement), make herself a sandwich. I made all the meals from scratch.
Berkeley Bee (San Francisco, CA)
A great reminder that home-made from scratch can't be beat.
Try it.
You won't just like it, you'll love it. And everyone else in the house will, too.
Dawn (Chicago)
If I make my own mac and cheese, the moist, high fat cheese I use comes wrapped in plastic. Milk and cream cartons are also lined with plastic.
Erik Rensberger (Maryland)
Cheese without plastic may be harder to come by, but you should be able to find clean milk in glass.
Patricia Shaffer (Maryland)
And be prepared then to double your food bill.
PShaffer (Maryland)
My comment was to Erik Rensburger.
Ingnatius (Brooklyn)
Oh it is such good advice if you can follow it: just don't eat anything that comes in a can or a box or a jar. Everything else stands a chance of being real food.
HT (Ohio)
"Just don't eat anything that comes in a can or a box or a jar" is silly and pointlessly limiting advice at the best of times. (No peanut butter or olive oil for you - it comes in a jar!) It's particularly silly in the case for people concerned about phthalates, because you've just eliminated paper and glass containers, but not plastic ones.
Robert Hlavin (Astoria Or)
Emily (Boston)
Thanks NYTimes, but his is NOT published in a peer reviewed journal. It was funded by and published on their website. On behalf of all the scientists in this world, please check your sources.
Erick Velazquez (somewhere in LA)
The article "The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese" by Roni Cabyn Rabin caught my interest as it made me realize that not just mac and cheese have chemicals that are harmful to humans and children in general. Nearly every processed food contains a form of chemicals that are harmful and it is served in fast food restaurants, groceries and even small shops. We as Americans have lived off of processed for a very long time and the effects are beginning to show and develop in our children. Not only are these foods full of chemicals which are bad for our health but they also have lots of things like sugars and fats which are not beneficial to us at all! It is also very difficult for our population to avoid these foods as they are advertised everywhere and are very tempting to people, especially younger children. Food companies in America do not care that they are killing us with their products slowly, they just want the money that we give them and the people that produce these foods such as farmers are basically forced to put chemicals into their animals and plants in order for them to grow a lot bigger and faster than normal, healthier plants. This happens because they are trying to make a profit and compete with other companies as faster and bigger food equals to more money for themselves. These foods are cheap and easily accessible which hurts us even more. Our children suffer from this, mentally and physically and America is profiting and taking advantage of this.
MF (Honolulu)
This article (and the underlying study) actually convey exactly the wrong advice on natural cheese vs powdered.

The study showed that powdered cheese had 4x more phthalates per gram of fat as natural cheese. But powdered cheese has half as much fat as natural cheese, so it actually only has 2x more phthalates per gram of cheese product (see referenced study). Further, cheese powder is concentrated (dehydrated), so you use a lot less of it than you would of natural cheese.

As a guess, one box of mac n cheese might have 1 oz (30 g) of cheese powder, which would have about 3 micrograms of phthalates according to the study. But the same amount of macaroni and cheese in the NY Times recipe would have about 8 oz of natural cheese, which would have about 12 micrograms of phthalates.

I'm all for natural macaroni and cheese, but it actually has more phthalates per ounce than boxed mac n cheese. The big concern is that these things are everywhere in the food system.
Steve Hunt (Hartford CT)
Advocacy group funded research. Can you link me the study and post concentration values discovered. I don't understand why you would avoid listing the most important information unless it's not actually dangerous levels and this articles worthless. Research publication link and concentration please.
Jenny Alderden (Boise)
Is it even research? I can't find anything peer reviewed at all.
Louise (North Brunswick)
I discussed this article with my 25 year old son, who lives on almost daily meals of "the box." He's been inhaling this food since he was 8. Asking him to cut down on mac'n'cheese is akin to asking a pack-a-day smoker to kick the habit way back in 1970.

He laughed at me and said that any study can be used to manipulate the public into getting into a panic over something. He's completely jaded by a lifetime of seeing dire warnings or encouraging endorsements placed on various foods and drugs, only to see them rescinded years later.

In that regard, he reflects the deep automatic skepticism and disbelief of much of his generation towards any public pronouncements from sources of authority, be they scientific, political, economic or financial. Their pool of cynicism is bottomless. because of this, they don't believe that any action on the part of the consumer or citizen is pointless - the politicians and corporate will do what they like, with no regard for the consequences other than enriching themselves.

Congratulations, America - they got the message of the late 20th century loud and clear.
Sara (<br/>)
So here's a thing: the article states that the mac and cheese powder has four times the phthalates of block or shredded cheese. However, according to the link, this measurement is made relative to the weight of fat in the product, then extrapolated to the weight of the product (at which point cheese powder is down to 2x the the levels of natural cheese). And a serving of cheese powder is smaller than a serving of cheese.

So in the end, it doesn't look like you're beating phthalates by switching to homemade mac and cheese.
François (Lévis, QC)
Learn to shop, learn to cook. Thank you.
Moira (San Antonio, Texas)
Read the article, it's basically everywhere.
Georgina (New York, NY)
A finding of high levels of phthalates in a common childhood food should be a concern for all of us--especially considering how these chemicals build up and interact with many other toxic and endocrine disrupting compounds in our daily environment. When I read that phthalates disrupt testosterone and produce genital abnormalities in males, I wonder about their possible effects on gender expression too. It is not a big leap to imagine that the brew of endocrine disrupting chemicals around us has a major impact on the brains and bodies of some children who insist that they feel themselves to be the opposite gender from the one assigned at birth.
S (NY)
In the EU chemicals have to be proven safe prior to entering the food supply. In the US, chemicals can be added until proven unsafe - and then getting them removed is extremely difficult.

We are all lab rats for the food industry.

And the cosmetics industry, too.
Sad but true
emr (Planet Earth)
"Vacuum and wet dust frequently."
Vacuuming is a pretty effective way of getting fine particles off the floor and evenly distributed it on all exposed surfaces of the household.
I don't believe vacuuming is EVER a good recommendation for ridding a home of chemicals.
Jamie (Chicago)
You report this, but don't even tell us which brands were tested. And then you wonder why people don't trust the media?
Moira (San Antonio, Texas)
This isn't a true study, it's a propaganda item put out by a group that doesn't like Kraft. Give you an idea which brands were the most tested?
Jordan Goldstein (New York)
This article caught my attention because I am a big fan of mac and cheese. I was relieved to know that only the mac and cheese made with powdered cheese contain phthalates because I personally eat frozen mac and cheese. These chemicals are harmful and may pose a risk to young children. I understand that phthalates are not directly added into foods, but they do come in contact with foods because of the food processing equipment. Not only are these chemicals in foods, but they are also in the plastic materials in the packaging and the manufacturing process. Even though Europe has banned many phthalates the F.D.A has classified them as "indirect food additives," which to me is the same as saying a food was made in a factory that may contains peanuts. It a losing battle because not only do foods contain this chemical but fragrances, personal care products, moisturizers, cosmetics, and shampoos, as well as other products we come in contact with on a daily basis. As a consumer who reads labels or ingredients, I am cautious to see words that sound like chemicals or scientific terminology. I try to find an alternative food.
MT (Indiana)
My favorite line: Vacuum and wet dust frequently! Honestly I laughed outloud at that one. I have time to cook, but I surely don't have time to clean my house as frequently as the authors suggest.

I also agree with Markie Buller - volunteering at a food pantry is an eye opener. There are guidelines about how long food can be kept after the expiration date. Additionally, if you volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen you find out that there's a tool people sometimes don't have that they really truly need - a can opener to go with the canned goods that are given out. I've often wondered when we pack backpacks at the local schools if the students have can openers at their apartments/homes.
KAL (Massachusetts)
As some of the commenters have said, yes homemade with actual cheese is the best idea. On the other hand, should we not, as consumers, have an expectation that food packaged and sold should be safe for us? I have a novel idea, if it is not safe; don't sell it. I don't see the point is using the standard paradigm of blame the victim; companies and the FDA have responsibilities and consumers should hold them accountable.
Kurt Burris (Sacramento)
Lighten up. I know making homemade mac and cheese is just as easy and fast as the blue box, but once my son went on a play date and got the blue box, that was what he, and his friends, prefered. But, just like ice cream and cookies, it was a special occasion treat. Now that he is an independent, happy, healthy college student he prefers plain pasta with butter and steamed vegetables. He isn't vegetarian, he's cheap. But he still loves the blue box when he comes home. As a treat.
Sam Vance (Columbus, OH)
I see a lot of comments about chemicals in food, but you must understand that all food is made up of 100% chemicals as is everything else in the universe.

We need to get over the chemophobia we have, but that can be difficult with stories like this. ALWAYS be weary of stories like this where they don't mention the amount found in food as well as the amount needed to cause illness.

This is very important because it could be that this compound is found at very low concentrations and is metabolized fairly quickly, such that it would be improbable you could ever eat enough of the food to get ill from that particular compound.

The story quotes someone saying this class of compounds exist in parts per billion in Mac n cheese. Just for reference, 1 ppb is the equivalent of 1 second in almost 32 years.
Jenny Alderden (Boise)
It's not even a study: it's a non-peer reviewed document published by an advocacy group. And, conflict of interest aside, i have no idea what concentration of this chemical is harmful even after reading the linked document. Without knowing that, the rest is meaningless.
Jennifer Freas (Mill Valley, CA)
The list of things to avoid is long, with no prioritization.

The homemade mac and cheese versions include products that the article says to avoid - pasta is typically in boxes or plastic bags, full fat (also not recommended in per article) cottage cheese is in a plastic tub, etc.

Would be helpful to included a basic mac and cheese alternative, these options wouldn't please children used to eating simple box mac and cheese.
Patricia Shaffer (Maryland)
Why can't we just do what Europe managed to do, and ban the stuff from everything? Why put the onus on consumers instead of manufacturers? I fear the effect of budget cuts for the FDA, which already leaves us unprotected from many suspect chemicals used by manufacturers.
Jennifer S (Ohio)
you can make homemade mac and cheese in an instant pot in four minutes.

just saying.
Daniel (Framingham, MA)
What? Is this a joke? How was this article published without even minimal scrutiny? So many basic questions remain unanswered. Most importantly, is this a real study, and if so, where is it? I've scoured the web and databases and found nothing. Was it peer reviewed? Who conducted it? Was the study accepted by a journal for publication? Where is the data? Where are the results? What was done to ensure validity and reliability? Which products did they test? Finally, how can we believe the research is unbiased when it was conducted by the The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging, an advocacy group where the one and only mission is "to convince the food industry to remove all sources of phthalates from our food"? I'm appalled the NYT would publish this article without even considering these questions, and before the "study" was evaluated by objective scientific peers. It seems the author does not care how good the science is, as long as it confirms her worldview.
Jenny Alderden (Boise)
I'm with you.

And, no, it's not a study, it is a non-peer reviewed document by an advocacy group.

I have no idea how this ended up as a NYT article. Shudder.
Lingonberry (Seattle, WA)
The Ligonberrys banned the use of orange, fake mac and cheese in 1983 when I decided not to eat adulterated food. What a time that was and the rule was if the ingredient was around one hundred years ago it was safe to eat but no modern additives allowed. We even made our own ice cream in a hand crank bucket with a dasher. The kids loved it and that year I lost 20 lbs. simply by eliminating processed food. Restaurants still are a bit of s challenge but we have stayed mostly on track and feel great.
Eli (Tiny Town)
What foods are actually safe to eat?

Is it really really down to the choice of eating raw vegan locally grown food or eating chemicals?

That's what it feels like...
Giovanna (Prescott, AZ)
Go vegan!
GailB (Indiana)
What about the Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese, which has cheese sauce already made up, in a foil packet--not powdered at all. Was this tested?
KM (Antelope Valley, CA)
Home made mac & cheese is the BEST!
I can't keep quiet (South Bay of Los Angeles)
Here's an easy plant-based mac and cheese recipe. It won't hurt you OR the dairy cows.
sis (santa barbara)
45 years ago i asked my mother to buy individual cheese slices wrapped in plastic like i saw in other kids boxed lunches. she said she would not because "the cheese is made from the same ingredients as the plastic wrap"... ahead of her time:)
Armin (Connecticut)
I have a revolutionary idea: How about just making Mac and Cheese using Macaroni and ACTUAL cheese instead of orange mystery powder.
Thomas J (Staten island, NY)
That's what we do now. It tastes much better.
Kate (Sacramento CA)
That is exactly what the final paragraph of this article proposes.
JT (Manhattan)
Many, many parents in this nation genuinely do not have the time or financial resource for natural preparations to be a viable option. Low-cost, quick-prep food items that their kids will actually eat (which are almost all exclusively processed) tend to be their only option when they are working multiple jobs to earn a living wage. I think It's really important for us all to view circumstances like these with wider perspective than our own personal one.
Judy Thomas (Michigan)
Plus because of all the commercials they absolutely have to have sponge bob mac and cheese not my homemade. They also had to have McDonald chicken nuggets and my plain breaded chicken went begging.
larry kanter (Delhi,N.Y.)
So Judy, perhaps it's time to turn the TV off. You're the mother, you decide what's good for your children's health, not them. They can pass the knowledge on to their children in 20 years
spc (California)
You don't have to give in to their demands for what they see on TV. Serve them what they should eat to maintain their health, if they don't like it take the plate away & give nothing else. No healthy child has ever died because they missed a meal or two. Just serve the food, no arguing, no cajoling them to eat, just that they are required to eat a bite or two if they expect to watch TV or social media. After all, you are the parent, not their friend. One of my great frustrations was a child who occasionally would dig in his heels about not liking something (which was OK as long as it din't affect his health) and then rediscover the particular food a few moths later, like it & attempt to chastise me for not making it more often. The point is you don't have battles over food--you just set the parameters without preaching about how good mac n cheese is or is not for their health.
Michael Andersen-Andrade (San Francisco)
Then how about turning off the T.V.?
Ana O (San Francisco)
Making macaroni and cheese from scratch is easy and cheap. The boxed stuff tastes like plastic. Why so many chemicals is our food!?
JT (Manhattan)
Cheap is relative; boxed is cheaper and that difference in expense is critically important to many perpetual consumers of that product. Time is also a cost and many people do not have the time to prepare mac and cheese from scratch. It's also important to note that most people do not know what the article divulges about boxed mac and cheese so they would not have had cause to avoid it.
patsy (new york)
Shelf life
Emily Thompson (Richmond, VA)
Thank you for writing this article, and justifying my slavish devotion to Annie's organic macaroni and cheese.

Baby boys and fetuses being affected by phthalates is no joke.

Fish with ambiguous genitalia in our oceans isn't really so great either.
S (NY)
The article points out that even Organic boxes had the chemical.... no powered cheese was without it.
Julie (nyc)
The article explicitly states you can't buy your way out of this
Hal (nyc)
how do we know Annie's is ok?
RobD (CN, NJ)
The dangers of phthalates have been known for years. The topic of this article is how prevalent the chemical has been found to be.
If you choose to ignore the warnings and aren't wary about what you are feeding your kids, grandkids or in the womb child then so be it.
AP (Chicago)
Darwinian wisdom suggests that since there are too many of us already, this is not necessarily bad news for humanity (unpleasant details omitted).
ring0 (Somewhere ..Over the Rainbow)
It seems like nowadays it takes courage to state this simple fact. I also think of Thomas Malthus when reading such findings.
Anon (California)
Dangerous chemicals in something as mundane as mac & cheese and we still accept cancer as an inevitable part of life.

We are slowly being killed by the conveniences of modern life.
If you look at the data, cancer rates across all age groups and most cancer types have been pretty stable for the last 50 years. And to top it off, cancer mortality has fallen over the last 20. Sounds like modernity is doing a pretty good job.
I Used To Be So Cool... (The Wasteland)
Cancer IS an inevitable part of life. It's existence extends backwards thousands of years and it's rise as a leading cause of death is only because we're living longer and hitting the inevitability of cancer more often.
You're absolutely right. There have been several studies that show that lifestyle choices cause 70-90% of all cancer cases.
Jeff (Walter)
And lastly, what are the negative effects of consuming a pthalate? This article lists a whole series of potential health issues, all without any scientifically backed research. Relying on correlative data is lazy at best, and purposely misleading at worst. The CDC has no data that shows a link to any of the mentioned health issues and pthalates, but they do mention that it is quickly metabolized and removed through urination.

So, to summarize, the NYT has chosen to run a story that:
- Cites a questionable study, without even linking to it
- Fails to tell us at what levels pthalates were found in mac-n-cheese
- Fails to tell us at what levels pthalates are dangerous
- Fails to demonstrate that consuming pthalates even poses a threat

The NYT and Roni Caryn Rabin should be embarrassed. At a time when we need them to be at the highest levels of credibility and trust, they choose to publish garbage like this.

I'm not implying that mac-n-cheese is the nirvana of nutrition. But to try and scare the public and shame parents into believing they may have endangered their child's health by serving them a bowl of mac-n-cheese last week makes you a horrible person.

Rant done.
CK (Rye)
Jeff Walter - Or, what are the negative effects of consuming lousy information?
A Wilson (Canada)
Thank you for your comment! Not citing the source study, nor making mention of the type and quality of results is a terrible way to write a science piece. I'm shocked to see that this article was approved by the editors.
Nick Salamone (New York City)
Really? This is what you choose to rant about. A chemical that is banned in teething rings that shows up in Mac 'n' Cheese products? And it is easy enough and far better tasting and healthier to make your own Mac 'n' Cheese from scratch. And you don't think that's newsworthy? Now you are seeing "fake" news and "media bias'" in the coverage of chemicals in comfort food.
Alex (Tampa, FL)
When I travel abroad, hitting a grocery store is usually one of my top priorities. It always amazes me just how simple their food ingredient lists are.

For example, I just killed off a package of Mark's & Spencer's Marzipan candies from the UK last night. By no means a health food. Ingredients: Sugar, Ground Almonds. Glazing agent: Shellac, Beetroot Red, Paprika Extract, Lutein, Curcumin, Preservative: E202. Again, not a health food, but compared to any pre-packaged US food, it's worlds apart.

I do wonder why US foods are so loaded with artificial crap. I hear people say "economics", but prices at the grocery stores in central London are almost half what I'd pay for food in the USA, even in suburbia. Also notable abroad is how fresh the food is. They don't have to coat the food with petroleum-based waxes -- it's fresh enough that it doesn't need it. Why can't I get stuff like this in the USA?

If I'm abroad for any length of time, I do notice that my weight drops, despite eating like a pig. Perhaps the US should be focusing on food producers rather than patients for solving obesity.

Also, why are we still washing & refrigerating eggs? How much environmental damage is being caused by this? Think about it. Because we wash eggs in the USA, they must be refrigerated from the time they're washed to the time they're consumed, including transportation. That's at least one refrigeration truck & at least one display case at every grocery store in the USA.
Rose (Seattle, WA)
People shop and ear differently in the US than in Europe. in Europe it's far more common for people to shop every couple of days and cook fresh ingredients; they don't have to worry about food storage. Americans, with our enormous houses and suburban kitchens, tend to have pantries where we store staples for months on end.
Zandalee (KC)
Alex The reason our food is so full of chemicals is because a lot of them make us eat more food. That slogan about not being able to eat just one chip is literally true. There are 14 different names for MSG and in rat studies they will eat it until they are obese which is bad, but it also chemically overexcites brain cells until over time the cells die off. Do you remember the movie Over the Hedge when the magic dust blew into their faces making them wild to eat it? That was MSG, the orange dust covering Doritos. High fructose corn syrup makes us obese, not fat. This too is addictive and is in everything. That's why it is so hard to stop drinking sodas. There are so many children who are allergic these days to artificial dyes but they don't take them out, do they? The food companies put these ingredients in there to make us buy more but also to cover up bad tastes or unappealing colors because then they can use cheaper, more poor grades of food. All of these estrogen producing toxins build up in us and sometimes show up as cherry angiomas on one's torso. Do not ever look to the gov't for change in our foods because 32 top gov't positions are taken by former Monsanto employees and they have had a revolving door policy for years. Our gov't always backs big food corporations and big pharma to the detriment of our health because they are paid to do so. Even our chocolates and candy are horrid compared to Britain's.
P (N)
Check the label of marzipan in the US and it will be exactly the same as what you found overseas. Except for the E202 preservative....
Peter S (Rochester, NY)
Great article with very important information. These products should really be labeled Macaroni and Not Cheese. But jeez, how hard is it to boil macaroni and melt real cheese?
MN (Michigan)
It is not that easy to make a creamy cheese sauce.
wbj (ncal)
The solution to this is the same as the question "How do you get to Carnegie Hall" "Practice! Practice! Practice!"
Dianne (Chicago)
Frankly I have no idea why anyone would serve their kids this junk. Making a mac and cheese casserole from scratch is the easiest dish you can imagine and tastes nothing like the stuff they call "mac and cheese" that comes out of a box. The biggest problem here is not Trump, not Kraft foods. It is how lazy we as Americans have become in the kitchen!
vickijenssen (Nova scotia)
latchkey kids and newly-moved-from home kids know how to make this. and they do. It's not the parents making it
Yinlan (san Francisco)
It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the food being sold to the people does not end up harming them. When there's substantial evidence that show certain chemicals are harmful to people, and there are ways to control how those chemicals enter the food supply, then it is up to the government to control those inputs and processes.
Constanza (Argentina)
No, it is not because of laziness, it is because the food industry made people think cooking is a chore, when they started making processed food, after WWll, they convinced people of that, it seems it was the household task that people did enjoy, they only see consumers as cash cows, they do not care about health. It really is easy to cook, it does not have to be complicated, just scramble 2 eggs and put on a toast if you have no time, much healthier then packaged food, or make some pasta with a little butter and some cheese. No one is saying you have to be a gourmet cook. One of my favorite dishes is pasta with broccoli, boil pasta and broccoli together, then add olive oil and grated cheese, yum, fast and healthy.
EE (Canada)
Move over Movember! Prostate awareness is important but endocrine disruptors in the food and water supply is something every man should be campaigning against. This is so explosively serious, I don't know what's taking so long. Guys, make this issue yours...male fetuses are especially vulnerable. This cannot be ignored!
CK (Rye)
EE Canada - Curious, it's "explosively serious," but shows little effect on society or people, while what we read is clearly mostly conjecture and playing it safe. Caution is nice but also a luxury ie this can definitely be ignored to no great effect.
Nick Salamone (New York City)
Caution is a luxury? With Mac 'n' Cheese. You've got to be kidding?
Um - "choose low-fat dairy..." WHAT?! That is TERRIBLE advice! Either skip dairy altogether, or choose organic, local whole milk diary sold in glass bottles from grass fed cows that were milked by hand.
JoanneN (Europe)
...preferably unicorn milk, surely.
I don't know where you live, but this type of milk is available throughout the US if you just look for it. Try google. Note, you just might have to look beyond your local grocery store. If that's too much effort, see my first suggestion - stay away from dairy. Low-fat and fat-free dairy is highly processed and typically homogenized. Do some research on why that's not great.
I mean it's your choice - better quality, more expensive food > longer, more healthful life v. cheap, poor quality food > short life with increased risk of chronic illness.
Sarah (Idaho)
Next, I bet you're going to tell me that the hot dogs I slice into my mac and cheese are unhealthy too!
wbj (ncal)
No, I'm not going to say that. I think that you already know that.
spc (California)
Unless they are meatless hot dogs, they are.
ring0 (Somewhere ..Over the Rainbow)
And some claim that the Coke you wash it down with is not good for you!
JA (Vermont)
What about so-called dairy free cheese? I'm deeply suspicious of it but it's what my grandson eats. Is this stuff safe?
RobD (CN, NJ)
well, for one thing, it's not cheese if its not dairy.
Mary Ann (Massachusetts)
Maybe it's a petroleum byproduct.
Sarah (LA)
I always knew I was making the healthy choice by eating shells and cheese
jeanne marie (new mexico)
;) !!!

humor after a 'scare' article and amongst all these comments!!!

yay sarah! <3
David G (Monroe, NY)
Oh, for crying out loud. EVERYTHING has some trace of pesticides or chemicals or other ingredient that is harmful in large doses.

Now we're going to have a Mac 'n' Cheese Scare?

Just do the best you can; try to eat fresh foods, cut down on the fast food, eat more fruit/veggies.

But I'm still going to have an occasional box of Mac. And an occasional bourbon. And cigar. And yes, I'm a Democrat.

Get over this everything-is-going-to-kill-me phobia.
jeanne marie (new mexico)
I just decided to join you.
i'm in new mexico.
gonna go out in the bright sun, in only my 62 year old irish birthday suit & smoke a cigarette.
woo hoo!
Constanza (Argentina)
Occasional is fine, but we all would benefit from eating Whole Foods, not chemicals.
danielle (buffalo)
Yes, you should have all of those things if you want them, and I will allow none to my 8 and 6 year olds. I'm assuming that if you are in fact still a growing boy, you are only growing outward and not upward. Therein lies the difference.
Sheila (<br/>)
Is there a list of the brands they tested?
RobD (CN, NJ)
All of them since they all use powdered cheese as a base.
SirWired (Raleigh, NC)
Errr... "take your shoes off at home to avoid household dust that may be contaminated with chemical traces"?

How is taking your shoes off supposed to help you "avoid household dust"? By definition, it's in the house already, and it's just as happy to stick to socks and bare feet as it is shoes.
William Cornwell (Salem, MA)
The point of removing shoes, I believe, is to avoid tracking in contaminated dust.
Susan (Arizona)
The Japanese have been doing this for centuries, it’s not crazy.

If you leave your shoes at the door, you will avoid bringing in many serious chemicals from paving products, tires, fertilizers, pesticides . . . I could go on, but you should get the idea. Keep slippers by the door. Vacuum (with a cleaner with a good hepafilter) and damp mop, preferably post-dusting. The general idea is to keep the bad stuff out of your household dust!
spc (California)
Taking shoes off helps to minimize dust that is brought INTO the house on your shoes.
Jeff (Walter)
Shame on The Times for this fear mongering and food shaming piece-of-garbage article! There are so many issues with this, but let's unpack a few.

First of all,I have serious concerns about the legitimacy of this "study". Has it been peer-reviewed? Has any credible scientific organization weighed in on the parameters of the research and how it was conducted? The fact that the study was funded by four activist groups who would benefit from these "results" is suspect to say the least. The author uses this study as the foundation of her article, but doesn't even provide a link to the study itself?

Secondly, to say a chemical is dangerous and that it has been found in a food is not a smoking gun. There are many dangerous chemicals found in even the most natural of foods - apples contain cyanide, for example. But apples are in no way, shape or form dangerous to eat. When discussing a toxic chemical, natural or man-made, it's about the dosage level. This study does not state how many parts-per-billion of pthalates were found per serving of mac-n-cheese, just that it was present. That's useless information.

Thirdly, even if they HAD shared how many parts-per-billion were found, they did not talk about the toxicity level of pthalates. At what level do pthalates even pose a threat? Caffeine is a poison. Salt is a poison. Alcohol is a poison. Yet, most of us will eagerly consume all three today, at completely harmless levels.
glorynine (nyc)
agreed 100%.
William Cornwell (Salem, MA)
Salt is essential to human health. If you don't overdo it, salt is most definitely not a "poison."
chandra (India)
It takes a NYT article to understand that processed food is bad, more so for children.
Orthodromic (New York)
For those who are lambasting parents for serving boxed mac and cheese (lazy, irresponsible), let us perform a small thought experiment on the relatives costs of home-made mac and cheese (which many state is trivially easy to make) and boxed mac and cheese. Prices are obtained from a The recipe for home-made mac and cheese is the suggested NYTimes creamy version. You are, after all, reading it.

Cost breakdown:
Home-made mac and cheese: $16.35 ($10.22 adjusted for partial ingredient use). I excluded some ingredients for simplicity (nutmeg, dried mustard, salt, pepper).
Box of Kraft mac and cheese: $1.89 ($0.99 on sale, which is often).

Time breakdown:
Home-made mac and cheese: 1hr 40min
Box of Kraft mac and cheese: 10min (shorter for the microwaved version)

Home-made mac and cheese is not trivially easy to make, either time-wise or cost-wise (I've made a lot of the stuff). And this is using the NYTimes easy recipe that forgoes the use of a béchamel base. Add in a dinner that's got to be made sometime after you pick up your kids from school and bathtime (maybe 2 hours for a 4-5 year old), and it's even less trivial.

So yes, a reasonably practical solution is to try to minimize phthalate contamination in these products.
Armin (Connecticut)
What are you talking about. Maybe skip the fancy recipe? Walmart pricing (online) for a 5-pack Kraft Mac and Cheese (36 oz) is $4.50. But you can buy a 48 oz pack of Macaroni for $2.92 and 16 oz of shredded cheddar for $3.98. Price per pound of Mac and cheese
Kraft: $2. Price per pound home made: $1.73
ring0 (Somewhere ..Over the Rainbow)
Thanks for your detailed look at "real" families eating at home. It's why fast food is so popular.
Rose (Seattle, WA)
Actually homemade mac and cheese is trivially easy to make. I don't know why it would take anyone 1 hour and 40 minutes to make mac and cheese - it takes me like 40 minutes tops, and half of that is bake time.
Watson (Maryland)
This comes down to a labeling issue. Obviously there is no cheese in Mac & Cheese so manufacturers should be required to label is product as Mac and Stuff. And now after reading this article the name should Mac and Stuff and some other Stuff too.

This is all part of the Walmartification of America. Yuk.
Alex (Tampa, FL)
Sad, but true: Breyer's no longer sells Ice Cream. Instead, it's now labeled Frozen Dairy Desert, since it has so little cream/dairy in it.

Ironically, Wal-Mart's house brand *IS* ice cream.

Remember when Breyer's adverts prided themselves on how natural/wholesome their ingredients were? It's a very mixed up world we live in today.
Forget Walmart. It's now the Amazonification of our world.
bimini (dc)
Where can I find information about the study methodology, products tested, and other details? Was this a peer-reviewed study? I've looked all over and only find general summary information.
sally (usa)
Oh great. I only served my kids Annie's mac and cheese trying to protect them somewhat, but sounds like all are problematic. Surprised about the judgmental comments here though.
Jen Lin (Cupertino)
I just want a link to the actual study so I can.see what 30 were tested. I just bought a big Costco thing of Annie's
AG (Here and there)
I've found organic white American cheese at WF. If you melt some in a small amount of milk and butter you can make a tasty sauce in just 1-3 minutes.
Roger (St. Louis, MO)
Pthalates are present in trace amounts in essentially everything. Homemade mac and cheese will have pthalates as well, albeit only about 25% as much as the powdered cheese version. It's difficult to build factory machinery completely devoid of these materials, so anything that comes anywhere near plastic or rubber during harvest, processing or packaging is going to have at least trace contamination.
s einstein (Jerusalem)
As the concern about “drugs” and their personal use/ misuse continues,
Increasingly mixed with emotional mantras, bordering on blinding hysterical, medicalizing- epidemic-infecting outcomes, among select populations (“they” don’t count),more than 60,000 toxic materials continue to share our daily life space. At home. In our neighborhoods and communities.Where we study and learn. Or choose not to. Work places. Sites/ sights of leisure.Environments of care, treatment, rest and retirement.Present unabated and even, at times, increasingly.Rarely mentioned. Even as they are known and cited scientifically by some, while alt-fact entrepreneurs goulash facts, fictions and fantasies, undisturbed
by their words and actions. Today it’s caloried-macaroni and cheese;which the poor, homeless hungry and powerless might relish. Tomorrow, another article?As we fill-up on the latest numbers, representing real PEOPLE who WERE, of opioid-associated drug-death-overdoses, in our chemically-safe environments.In an era of an enabled WE-THEY culture and robust coopting-complacency.
Dan (Philadelphia)
Sad thing is it is SO easy to make real mac and cheese enough for a week.
AP (Chicago)
... and way cheaper too.
Me (My Home)
Cheaper than 1.89? Don't cook much, do you? And cream sauces like the bechamel needed as the base for good mac and cheese are time consuming and not always successful.
Dan (Philadelphia)
You don't need 'bechamel' to make decent M&C. There are simpler recipes.
Kathy Dalton (Massachusetts)
This is worrisome but would be more persuasive as many have mentioned if brands and products were listed. Only 10 mac & cheese products were tested.

There is at least one brand that has a very short list of ingredients, all pronounceable, I wonder about that.

I have a long history in local and organic and cooperative food movements but in my house, as in similar houses in my community these boxes of Mac& cheese, often augmented with some broccoli and other additions occasionally appears for a quick meal.
AJVega (Boston)
The issue, as I understand it, has nothing to do with the ingredients but things (like plastic or rubber) that the ingredients come in contact with through their processing. The phthalate are absorbed into the fat in the ingredients. (I could be wrong about how that works)

But I'd say that what you need more than a list of brands is a link to the study. Because we don't know much of anything from this article. We don't know the level of phthalate detected. We don't know what levels would be dangerous. We don't even know if the thing was peer reviewed.
Rose (Seattle, WA)
whether or not you can pronounce the name of an ingredient is no indication of how safe or healthy it is.
Sarah (State College, PA)
I'm an artist. The most potent and vivid tubes if paint are based on pthalo pigments, especially blues and greens. It boggles my mind that these would be sanctioned additions into our food supply. This article reinforces my effort to consume fewer processed foods.
HT (Ohio)
Pthalo pigments are very different chemically from the phthalates in plastics. Phthalo pigments are large molecules and would move very slowly through a plastic material. Phthalates are relatively small molecules that move relatively quickly through plastic - that's why they're a hazard in a food container.
Susan (Arizona)
Yes, and artists take the warnings on those tubes of paint seriously. I wear gloves to wash my brushes.
Jay (David)
I haven't eaten mac and cheese at a restaurant or out of a box or can for decades.
In fact, most humans living in post-industrial countries should not even be eating wheat, rice, corn or potatoes on a regular basis. These foods are far to high in carbs, and the later three are low in fiber and protein.
And when we do eat these foods once in a while, we shouldn't be eating them out of a box or a can.
Learn to cook foods using real ingredients. It's fun!
Alex (Tampa, FL)
**sarcasm on**
Yes, Asians apparently have been suffering from a steady daily rice diet and all of the terrible problems that go along with it... Oh wait a second...they're healthy, live long lives, and aren't fat.
Apple6 (Colorado)
I'm appalled by how judgmental these comments are. Yes, eating and serving whole foods is important. No, no one was under the impression that mac and cheese out of a box was a health food. And now that we know that they all contain phthalates, most of us will probably back away from them. Most of us are doing the best we can in attempting to manage the tightropesque balancing act that is modern-day parenting, which includes questions about things like the ideal ratio between cooked-from-scratch and pre-prepared meals. If we occasionally resort to a box of mac and cheese it's not because we're horribly lazy or negligent; it's because at any given time that's all our picky kid will eat or all we can afford or all we have the energy to whip up after a day of work. No one wants to put their kids in harm's way, which is why exposes like these are important. But for the love of god, please don't assume that parents who sometimes make choices you wouldn't make care any less about their kids. My favorite comment was from someone who said that if people who aren't willing to cook for their children shouldn't have any. Gee, that sure is helpful to those of us who are struggling with the life tasks associated with single parenting, work that depletes us, chronic money deficit, health issues, and other realities. If you want to help, there are a million ways to do that. But judging, shaming, and assuming malicious intent of our fellow parents? NOT helpful.
Robert (Knoxville)
"And now that we know that they all contain phthalates, most of us will probably back away from them." Five minutes ago you didn't know what a phthalate was.
Apple6 (Colorado)
Robert, I've known about phthalates for years. What in my original comment led you to believe that I hadn't heard of them until "five minutes ago?" Being genetically at risk for estrogen dependent breast cancer, I'm especially concerned about plastic byproducts, environmental toxins, and xenoestrogens. I stay away from plastic storage containers, plastic water bottles, and plastic wrap. What I didn't realize is that plastic had made its way into a pre-packaged food that I occasionally buy. Phthalates are nothing to trifle with; any agent that disrupts endocrine function has potentially serious downstream effects - especially if there are other risk factors present. So yes: I know all about phthalates and many other pernicious chemical compounds the FDA has not yet cracked down on. This article may not have been particularly well-researched, but there is a goodly amount of research about phthalates in general. And while the occasional box of mac and cheese is not going to produce ambiguous genitalia, I wouldn't minimize the potential harm of continued, cumulative exposure over the course of years. What is simultaneously true is that shaming people who rely on packaged foods is disgraceful and sociologically tone deaf; anyone who is truly concerned about the health of those around them can do many positive things to be helpful. Sounding off about how irresponsible others are while gloating about their own healthy lifestyle choices is not one of those things.
Helenstoner (Toronto)
Come on NYT, you're so good with data graphs. This article is seriously missing the numbers that would give readers a sense of how bad the problem is and tell us how alarmed we should be. How about a simple one that tells you the quantity measured in food products as compared to the quantities known to disrupt health? How about one that also shows how much bioaccumulates with a projected estimate for harm (e.g. "Three years of monthly mac and cheese causes accumulation is enough to....").
Without this information, this article seems just calculated to cause hysteria over "chemicals in food".
Sital (<br/>)
It's disappointing that the first recipe they offer for mac and cheese takes an hour and 40 minutes. google 10 minute mac and cheese. parents need a viable alternative to boxed
Denise Rose (Tucson)
Here's a fantastic mac and cheese cooking video; all ingredients are plant-based.
CK (Rye)
The untitled "report" linked here states, "Phthalates were detected in nearly every cheese product tested (29 of 30 varieties)."

So, what is the name of that one brand that does NOT have Phthalates?? The most powerful available force in this whole enterprise is the market, so that bit of data would be a game changer. We are denied it, and you have to wonder why.

NYT readers know that processed food is less good than fresher equivalents. Personally I have a package of some brand Mac & Cheese on the shelf, in case the power goes out and am forced to my camp stove for a meal. That's the involvement level I recommend for individuals with respect to powdered cheese.
SRB (Brooklyn)
The study linked is from 2012? How is this recent?
Cheryl (Yorktown)
The combined effects of different endocrine disruptors may also { are] a major health issue. I'm NOT up to date, but pesticides are in this category, and could end up in foods, and concentrated in fats, along with the phthalates. exposure to PVC in many home materials may also be a contributor.

It's not just one element acting on its own: it's how the effects may multiply with multiple exposure.

And our food supply is not being protected - again, because of the financial clout of all the businesses in line between growing crops and developing new chemical applications, to the retailers.
Good article. Hope more articles like this are published on the often-unnecessary inclusion of potentially toxic chemicals in our food or other products that can contaminate our bodies.
citizen vox (san francisco)
1. Don't expect the FDA to do anything with this knowledge. We are in the era of Trump and his deregulation of anything that makes money.

2. Is it only packaged mac and cheese?

3. In my graduate school days, I did a lot of work with nutritionists; they and their journals were recommending diverse dietary choices, not only for the usual reason of getting a wide range of nutrients but also to spread the toxins around.

4. Do fast food eaters even know what real food tastes like>
PaulN (Columbus, Ohio)
Powdered cheese? Just google it and then look at the list of ingredients. It is cheese only in name. I can't imagine any person with any common sense would buy it or feed his children with it. Those who do, well, what can I say. As long as stupidity is not outlawed, not much can be done about it.
Markie Buller (Chicago)
How arrogant. I recommend you start volunteering at a food pantry at least once a week. It's a real eye-opener to get to know the clients, the challenges in their lives and the costs of being raised in poverty poverty.and raised in poverty. I have met so many people that simply don't know how to cook fresh meal. It never happened in their homes. Try cooking with no fridge, just a hotel bath sink and cheap microwave.
Martha (NYC)
It's a matter of education. I am now a vegan-for-the-animals but learned that you can eat far, far healthier eating vegan anyway! A traditional recipe that most people ought to be able to afford is pasta fagioli. Or any version like it: pasta (best to cook, let it cool in the refrig, then warm again: you are cutting the glucose by 50%!), any kind of tomato sauce (no oil is healthier) sauteed with some fresh garlic and onion, and white beans which you can get cheaply, of course, dry, and have on hand to cook ahead of time for this delicious, very nutritious recipe. Note that I didn't mention fresh vegetables which are hard for poor people to pay for, but if they can afford to get them, add in cauliflower, carrots, escarole (microwave it ahead of time, delicious!), swiss chard, broccoli, peppers, ANYTHING! and you can make a wonderful, nutritiously balanced meal for not much money at all. Use whole wheat pasta if you can afford it - it's not much more. Please see this site for inexpensive, balanced meals most people can afford if only they get the instructions right: Remember, too, pasta or rice and beans, or even just beans and tortillas is the staple for poor people the world over. Also see: and
Capti[email protected] (Captiva, Florida)
I have made numerous servings of boxed mac and cheese. FYI, I did have to boil water to make it! If only I had known then what this article reveals, I would not have made it
SW (Los Angeles)
Does eating macaroni and cheese explain why so many teenage boys now have larger breasts than mine (I am a woman)?...
Jean (Holland Ohio)
Usually they are overweight--and it is the fat of obesity that you are seeing.
stan continople (brooklyn)
My teenage niece once remarked, while being "forced" to watch a 1940's B&W movie, how the men sounded "different". When pressed, she said she meant their voices were deeper than men's voices today. Perhaps that's what was selected for back then or perhaps we've been chemically castrating ourselves.
J Jencks (Portland)
It is well established that male sperm count has steadily fallen over the last 60 years. This may be due in part to bio-accumulation of anti-androgenic chemicals such as DEHP.
With each generation the exposure increases because there is more of it in the environment AND babies are being born already exposed in utero.
EILEEN (Putnam county NY)
Thanks for the information. Listing the particular brands and the amount of chemicals in the each one would have been extremely helpful.
Jean Scully (Rockaway, NJ)
It mentions in the article that that information was not released by the study authors. But since it was literally in every brand they tested, is there even a point? Would you just choose one with less toxin, rather than avoiding them all?
Sue Corbett (Norfolk, VA)
Yes, but the story specifically says that the study did not mention which brands they tested except that many of them were made by Kraft: "Nine of the cheese products tested were made by Kraft, which makes most of the macaroni and cheese products sold, though the group did not disclose the names of specific products tested"
Scott Cole (Des Moines, IA)
Mac and Cheese products not only have little nutritional value, but extremely high levels of salt. It's foul stuff even without the bonus plastic chemicals.
Oops. That first, important one was PMID 27216139. Left off the “9.” Sorry.
Scott, low-salt actually kills, despite what you may have heard. We should all aim at around the current average U.S. sodium consumption of about 4000-5000 mg of sodium daily. Google: “PMID 2721613” for four large, modern, measured-sodium-and-mortality datasets showing this.

For “hard-outcome” evidence-based medicine, as opposed to intermediate-outcome, dogma-based medicine, you should also examine PMID 25552517, 24165962, 24651634, 21289228, 28255559, 25119607, 21540421, 26298426 and 28244567.

We need a sea-change in our salt messaging. The salt in mac’n cheese ain’t gonna hurt you. But reading inflammatory articles like this WILL raise your blood pressure.
SR (Bronx, NY)
Those "products" look more like shiny plastic baby toys than food anyway.
Sally (<br/>)
A great recipe for a healthy homemade version are Swiss "Älplermagronen" (Alpine herder macaroni). Cut unpeeled potatoes into 1 cm cubes and stir fry them until golden. Stir fry finely cut onion as well. Cook macaroni in water, when done, stir grated cheese, the potatoes, and the onions into it and add pepper and chopped chives to taste. Add a touch of white wine if the mixture is not fluid enough. Serve warm with salad and applesauce.
Tastes great, can be done completely organically, and does not take much longer to cook than the ¢r@p you buy in the freezer at the supermarket.
(The real Swiss Älplermagronen have a special form, but any macaroni will work just as well.)
Friendly (MA)
A Swiss recipe that uses the stir fry technique?
J Jencks (Portland)
That brings back happy memories! I had that after hiking several hours up a Swiss waterfall and finding, to my surprise, a chalet/restaurant at the top.

This was at the Reichenbach falls in Meiringen, a name that sends thrills through any Sherlock Holmes fans.
ellen1910 (Reaville, NJ)
On frozen mac and cheese dinners it would be nice to know whether plastic film cover adds phthalates. Anybody tried cooking them without the cover?
Kiran (Downingtown)
I sometimes buy lean cuisine entrees for convenience. Not the healthiest at times but I remove the additional plastic chemical fears by not cooking them in the pliable plastic containers they come in. I remove them from the plastic containers and put in a glass pyrex rectangular container. Works best if you defrost the frozen food. Then I cook in microwave. Requires more stirring and maybe using napkin or cloth over container. I avoid cooking in the plastic in the microwave. There are other chemicals in addition to Phthalates in plastic I would imagine.
Leslie Salerno (New York)
Yes! I use either a paper towel or a salad/dinner plate as a cover instead.
Jan Mueller (Bremen, Germany)
Heating food in contact to plastic is always a bad choice. Try glass or ceramics plate/bowl. A (scientific) rule of thumb is that reactions/activity doulbles every 10°C (~18°F) so if you Microwave something to 80°C (~180°F) that is stored at 20°C (~70°F) there are 6 steps of doubling the activity of the softeners and remaining plastic monomeres in the plastic. They are 64 times more likely to evaporate from the solid plastic. At the Boling point of water they would be 256 times as likely to evaporate (2-4-8-16-32-64-128-256). Just a very simple aproach, not looking at the vapour pressure of the monomeres and softeners which should kick in on the way from warm to hot.
JHM (Taiwan)
When it comes to keeping harmful things out of food and the environment, the U.S. is so far beyond the EU it is almost pathetic. Many toxic substances that have been banned in Europe, from food additives to pesticides and drugs, continue to be used in the U.S., as the USDA and FDA are notorious for putting the interests of businesses ahead of the health of citizens.

It's not a secret; less than a decade ago, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was publicly quoted as saying, "the U.S. food safety system is divided by competing philosophies and a lack of accountability that make it harder to protect consumers." That's the former USDA Secretary speaking, not a consumer advocacy group!

I sincerely worry that under the current US administration, which looks to dismantle the EPA to benefit polluting industries, things are only going to get worse with regard to food safety and consumer protection.
Valerie Mulholland (Regina, SK)
Real mac and cheese is easy to make. There will be no leftovers, so plastic containers will not be necessary.
Jamie Grozovsky (New Canaan, CT)
Please publish the list and levels of brands tested.
Sue Corbett (Norfolk, VA)
The story specifically says that the study did not mention which brands they tested except that many of them were made by Kraft: "Nine of the cheese products tested were made by Kraft, which makes most of the macaroni and cheese products sold, though the group did not disclose the names of specific products tested"
Amy Eliezer (Sarasota FL)
People who must follow a gluten-free diet are "protected" by the diet's restrictions from such highly processed foods as boxed macaroni and cheese.
leslie perletz (colorado)
Actually gluten free does little to offer that protection. The gluten free choices of food- both boxed and frozen- (including mac and cheese) - are plentiful.
Mike (Washington)
Where is the link to the actual study? Only a summary flier is linked in the article, with no breakdown of the brands tested. Surely there is a full study article somewhere?
Patrick (Maine)
Details on the analysis are available at
Mike (Washington)
No, they're not. The website has no further information on results or methodology than what is in the promotional flier. It's just a honeypot to gather signatures for their petition.
Dave (Poway, CA)
The links to the study are in the third and fourth paragraphs. The study is a report from the lab in Belgium that they hired to make the measurements. They also state in the cover letter ( that "The lab report is as received from the laboratory, except that we have blacked
out references to specific product and brand names, and to non-cheese products run in the same batches."
Kirsten Sands (Seattle)
For goodness sake, please LIST the brands of Mac & Cheese for all of us freaking out parents! My kids have eaten countless boxes over the years.
Charlotte Brody, RN (Esmont VA)
All of the boxed Mac & Cheese had phthalates in them. That's why we need Kraft and the other companies to figure out where the phthalates are getting in and get them out.
Markie Buller (Chicago)
The article made it pretty clear that you can't shop your way out of this. It's even in the organic brands. Refuse to buy powdered cheese. Your kids will survive (mine did!) Start serving homemade - you can make a big batch of it and freeze it and glass boxes ready to microwave. You've got the information you need, now go it!
jg (los angeles)
Ok freaking out Moms of today we know you are too busy being Moms to cook a meal from scratch for your kids.
Actually most of the people I know who don't know how to cook are entitled ,college educated ,stay at home by choice moms who are too busy being moms to actually cook real meals for their kids. These are the same people who spend 200 bucks on organic boxed food at whole foods and then decide to get take out.
Put some chicken breasts in the oven,wash some salad greens, grate some cheese ,you will have a meal in less time than it takes to get your food delivered.
My mother who is in her 70's still works full time ans has managed to cook dinner (with the help of my father) on most days of the week for the last 50 years.
Watkins (Santa Rosa)
Isn't it rather obvious the production lines contain primarily plastic products to store and transfer food. Coupled with the fact that the package for the cheese is in a plastic and aluminum package. Thank you NYT good info.
Abe Uld (Chicago)
“Avoid anything you find in a box that could sit around for many years,”

Good advice in general for choosing food.
tshrum (Lawrence, KS)
I just emailed Amy's to see if their mac and cheese is packaged with materials that have phthalates. Please for the love of all that is holy about the magic of mac and cheese to a three-year-old, say it ain't so.
J Jencks (Portland)
It's very easy to make from scratch.
Sdh (Here)
I love Amy's and I'm 43! I don't eat it often but sometimes I crave it or am too exhausted to do anything but boil water. Wish there was some way you could share the answer with us. Maybe the NY Times could let us know.
Jrc NYC (Brooklyn)
Please let us know know what they say!
Consumer (USA)
Those "recommendations" are so restrictive that no one is going to benefit from them.
CMS (Tennessee)
Over the last two months, I have consumed three boxes of macaroni and powdered cheese, and all three times I experienced acid reflux to the extent that I won't eat it anymore.

Who knows if the chemical in question is the cause, but that sure seems lie a reasonable conclusion.

It's homemade mac and cheese from now on. Made it the other night and slept like a baby afterward.
Dr. J (CT)
Way to go, CMS! And I'm guessing that your homemade mac and cheese tasted far better than the boxed stuff, too.
SirWired (Raleigh, NC)
No; phalates, for all the things they are suspected of doing, aren't suspects for acid reflux. Pthalates are potential endocrine disruptors, which means subtle long-term changes to various hormones, not a short-term cause of indigestion.
CMS (Tennessee)
Thanks for the information SirWired. Much obliged.
Sophie Ota (Washington, D.C.)
Are they present in frozen Mac and Cheese options? Or just boxed mac and cheese?
Ben (Vancouve, Canada)
It's going To apply to frozen as well. This is due to the box Or plastic bag the product comes in and the process used in the plant to create The product. You have not avoided the problem by buying frozen. The contamination happens before it's frozen. Although once it's frozen it is less likely to absorb more contaminates than non frozen. About the contamination after it's frozen is my observation so I cannot back up my statement with studies. Cook your food from scratch as much as possible. Avoid processed food as much as possible.
K (Brooklyn)
Not helpful not to have the names of specific products tested, regardless of the fact that it's a problem that can't be "shopped out of."
Nancy L. Fagin (Chicago, Illinois)
Regarding the storing of food in plastic containers, does the warning/advise include cottage cheese containers or snap containers (Rubbermaid)? Runners/joggers water bottles?
Alex (Tampa, FL)
The plastic thing is a bit of a red herring. Some plastics are very inert and don't have issues with chemicals leeching out of them. Others are about as foul as it gets.

Suggesting using wood or ceramic to store food over plastic is a bit naive. What chemicals was the tree exposed to and what did it retain? What chemicals were used in the ceramic glazing? You might be better off with plastic.

Now, ANY material heated up is going to release more molecules than cold. Given plastic's history, either use microwave-safe plastics or some other container. I personally use glass or parchment paper for reheating in the microwave.
cmw (los alamos, ca)
I believe that all plastic containers present this problem. The more fat in contact, the more phthalates are absorbed. The more flexible the plastic, the greater the amount of phthalates. The longer the storage, the more phthalates get excreted.
Plastic water bottles are said to have a real problem with this. Older (especially re-used) bottles are worse. That's why so many people choose stainless steel water containers for outdoor activity. Glass containers at home... .
Scientist (Boston)
It's hard to know about food containers, since many of them are #1 or #2 plastic, which is recyclable and not intended for long-term use. It would be better to just recycle your cottage cheese containers when they are empty and buy new Rubbermaid containers that say they are BPA-free. Snap containers and water bottles of all sorts are now available in BPA-free versions. If you have old ones (since they last forever), check the bottom to see if they say "BPA-free". If not, throw them out and get new ones.
Nancy (<br/>)
A serving of spaghetti with a pat of butter, fresh ground black pepper and some grated Parmigiana Reggiano is so much better than that gloppy mac & cheese mess.
Generaljen (San Francisco)
Sure, to an adult. Try telling that to your super picky 4 year old.
Diane (Philly)
Or if you like the elbows (I do), boil the water, cook the pasta (takes about 5 minutes), drain and add butter and cheddar, or really any kind of cheese you like. Every bit as fast as the boxed stuff and much better!
Heather (San Francisco)
Oh my goodness, THANK YOU for this super-helpful advice. Three year-olds love black pepper and Parmesan cheese!
James (DC)
"Europe has banned many phthalates...but the F.D.A. allows the use of..."

I am an EU-US dual citizen so proud of the European Union for standing up for citizens, not selling them out like the US government.

The US government and its bureaucracies are a disgrace -- the corruption in DC is eyewatering. Maybe it's a good thing Trump is accelerating US decline...
Sarah (Boston)
So what about other products with this kind of cheese powder, like smart food popcorn?
Dr. J (CT)
Sarah, make your own popcorn at home. I do, with peanut oil in a stove top WhirleyPop popper. Then you can put on any topping you want. I like nutritional yeast mixed with a seasoning mix, such as Chicken Taco (Penzey's Spices). In fact, don't buy prepared and processed foods -- cook at home. It's better for you, and tastes much better, too.
Dave P. (Chicago, IL)
The shelf life of a food product is on the order of months; the years for the plastic container to degrade is on the order of hundreds to thousands of years (the plastic container that has leeched phthalates into the food in the first palce)... another example of the horribly inappropriate use of plastics.
Sarah (Boston)
Thanks. I wasn't looking for advice, though. I was asking a question about the science in the article, wondering if anyone has similarly studied the cheese powder they use on processed popcorn products.

Personally, I don't really eat popcorn.
Todd Kendall (Naples FL)
Well researched article. Links are helpful. Hard to argue with position of eliminating toxins from our homes. The diligence required to maintain a truly toxin free home demands research and discipline. Crazy that we now learn that Phthalates are in Mac and cheese! I wonder if the food chemists that work for the largest mac and cheese producer let their children consume their famous brands mac and cheese?
Dr. J (CT)
Todd Kendall, "Probably not" is the answer to your question about whether food chemists feed the products they work on to their children. In "Salt Sugar Fat" by Michael Moss, the author states that the food processing industry executives know better than to feed the products of their companies to their families. I recall once attending a seminar about an artificial fat, and afterward the presenter asked who in the audience would feed the compound to their families. Not one person raised their hand. The presenter then proceeded to harangue his audience about not supporting the industry. But we knew better.
Todd Kendall (Naples FL)
Dr. J thanks for insight. I suppose to even have to use the phrase "food chemist" speaks somewhat to current our food culture. Line it up with GMO's, hormones, pesticides and other food industry ingredients and practices and we do have a witch's brew. With ernest respect respect to Markies comments on proposing many writers positions are arrogant. While there is strong movement afoot to improve food buying and preparation for those that are able; consideration for quality of food for community food banks is also part of short and long range planning. Many more fresh foods now. The motivation to include ALL families in avoidance of toxic foods is because ALL children deserve food security first but then as soon possible incorporate healthier foods into their diets. Huge food companies have a tremendous impact what disadvantage kids eat. Think about it. 10 gallon tubs of government surplus yellow stuff. Mystery meats. Heck as adults we still buy the mystery meats. It's called fast food.
Alex (Tampa, FL)
Todd, one of my former college professors used to work for some of the larger processed food companies. Short answer: NO! He wouldn't eat them. Maybe to taste, but he wouldn't consume them with any regularity.

I liked his approach on food additives/preservatives: "If mice, insects, bacteria, fungi won't eat it, why would you?"
Patricia Y (Los Angeles)
Anyone who has ever opened a box of mac and cheese will not be surprised to hear that it contains unhealthy chemicals.
David G (Monroe, NY)
Have you ever opened your car window on the freeway? There are plenty of chemicals there too.

Honestly, this Mac 'n' Cheese 'problem' is the funniest thing I've read all day.
David (Brooklyn)
Would you be surprised if it contained arsenic? LSD? Just when chemicals are should be expected bc it's mac and cheese?
Rosie (NYC)
Good. Then keep eating it. Thinning of the herd, even by junk food poisoning is good. There are way too many humans as it is.