A coalition of consumer Advocacy groups is demanding that Kraft, and other processed cheese makers, eliminate the sources of phthalates that have been found in their processed cheese products.
The coalition’s demand comes after a recent study that found that chemicals from the phthalate family were found in 29 of the processed 30 cheese products tested by researchers.
The products included sliced processed cheeses, packaged natural cheeses and ten varieties of packaged macaroni and cheese.
(di-2-ethylhexyl) phthalate aka DEHP, was found at high levels in all but one of the products. The study said that DEHP was measured at much higher levels than other chemicals and "accounted for nearly 60% of all phthalates found in the cheese product items that were tested."
A related chemical, Diethyl phthalate (DEP) was detected in 27 of 30 processed cheese products.
Laboratory results revealed that on average phthalate
concentrations in powder from macaroni and cheese mixes was more than four times higher than in natural cheeses.
Following the release of the study, the advocacy groups backing it launched a campaign to “Klean Up Kraft,” calling on the company to eliminate all sources of phthalates in its food products “as soon as practicable.”
According to the advocacy groups, phthalates are not intentionally added to food, however, the chemicals are classified as indirect food additives, such as binders, plasticizers, and coating agents found in packaging materials and food processing equipment.
Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center--one of the four advocacy groups that funded the report says the publicity is focused on Kraft because they are the "market leader" for processed cheese products.
Belliveau notes that the campaign applies to the entire industry, and the advocacy groups are in discussions with other processed cheese producers.
He said that one major cheese producer has agreed to eliminate phthalates in their products," but he declined to identify which company agreed to reformulate.
In a statement, Kraft said that the "trace amounts" of phthalates found in the study "are more than 1,000 times lower than levels that scientific authorities have identified as acceptable."
Proponents of restricting phthalates as food contact materials argue that they have been linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity, and some have been banned or regulated to varying degrees around the world.
Last year ten consumer groups filed a petition calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to revoke authorization for the use of 30 ortho-phthalates in food contact materials.
Food industry lobbyists strongly opposed the petition.