Annie’s Homegrown, largely known for its “organic” macaroni and cheese line, is taking steps to remove a potentially harmful class of chemicals, called ortho-phthalates, from its products and packaging materials.
These chemicals make plastic flexible, and phthalates have already been banned in many kids’ toys over health concerns. Some scientists say the chemicals harm fertility, health of babies, disrupt hormones key for development and damage genetic material in sperm. One 2016 study in particular tied exposure to the chemicals to “diminished sperm count and deteriorated sperm quality, which may lead to infertility.”
“We are troubled by the recent report of phthalates found in dairy ingredients of macaroni and cheese and take this issue seriously,” reads a recent update to Annie’s website. The company noted that these chemicals can be in manufacturing equipment and holds a firm foothold in supply chains beyond just the food industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says phthalates can be found in personal hygiene products, makeup, plastic packaging and more.
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The FDA hasn’t established a level for the amount of phthalates permitted in foods, though Annie’s notes “any trace of phthalates [in mac and cheese products] are below the EFSA [European Food Safety Authority] standard.”
Fox News has request comment from the FDA and from General Mills, which bought Annie’s in 2014.
“We continue to work with our trusted suppliers to eliminate ortho-phthalates that may be present in the packaging materials and food processing equipment that produces the cheese and cheese powder in our macaroni and cheese,” reads Annie’s website.
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The update follows a 2017 study by advocacy groups posted ahead of peer-review and funded by the Environmental Health Strategy Center, finding pthalates in almost a dozen macaroni and cheese products, though the brand names weren’t disclosed, the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, the CDC says “human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown,” adding that more research is needed.