A reporter asks:
I was wondering if you could share your thoughts with me about the new study finding phthalates in boxed Mac & Cheese. Should consumers be afraid of just Mac & Cheese, considering phthalates are ubiquitous and found in almost every food we consume? What are your recommendations?
Here’s what I said:
The moral of this story is to eat a healthy diet and you don’t have to worry about things like phthalates. What is a healthy diet? It’s one in which most of the calories come from relatively unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and grains, and heavily processed foods—like boxed Mac & Cheese—are kept to a minimum. The phthalate-in-Mac-and-Cheese problem is a processing issue. Phthalates leach in during processing. You love Mac and Cheese? Great. Make your own.
What’s going on here?
For starters, I love Mac & Cheese, although not so much for the kind in boxes.
In case you don’t know much about this dish, check out the Hartman group’s useful historical Infographic.
As for phthalates:
- These are plasticizers in packaging with effects as endocrine disrupters.
- They have been associated with male infertility.
- The EPA is concerned about their toxicity and widespread environmental exposure.
- Researchers are worried about phthalates in fast food because of all the packaging and handling.
So why am I not more upset about them? They are easy to avoid. Just don’t eat foods in boxes.
This whole topic represents risk distortion, and it’s something we tend to do all the time. We all know, or certainly should, that a dietary pattern of wholesome, whole foods, mostly plants, is monumentally good for us. Such a diet not only minimizes bad chemicals in the food we eat, it – more importantly- minimizes bad food in the food we eat!