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Cows won’t like this, and neither will you: New report finds farm equipment may be source of toxic chemicals in food

Investigators have begun to answer a growing consumer concern: How are toxic chemicals called phthalates (THAL-eights) getting into cheese and other dairy products?

A new report released today by the Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging may provide answers that won’t make cows, farmers, or consumers happy.

The first-of-its-kind report confirms that some plastic and rubber farm equipment used to milk cows still contains these hormone-disrupting chemicals.

“Shockingly, the most toxic phthalate DEHP is still used in food processing, even though it’s banned in Europe and in children’s toys,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “With the U.S. Food & Drug Administration failing to act, it’s up to manufacturers to phase out all remaining uses of phthalates in order to protect dairy farmers and their customers.”

Previous studies have shown that phthalates can escape into high-fat foods (such as cheese and milk) during processing, packaging, and preparation. The good news, investigators found, is that dairy equipment suppliers already offer many non-phthalate alternatives that are effective and affordable.

More awareness of this issue and the knowledge that alternative equipment is available can help get toxic chemicals out of consumers’ food supply.

“Parents who buy dairy products and other food for their families want greater assurance of safety,” said Tracy Gregoire, Healthy Children Project Coordinator at the Learning Disabilities Association of America. “Industrial chemicals that put children at risk for IQ deficits, and learning and behavior problems don’t belong in our food supply.”

Study after study shows that phthalates exposure disproportionately impacts lower-income communities and people of color, making this an issue of environmental justice.

“Lower income consumers and families of color shouldn’t bear the brunt of phthalate exposure from processed foods like mac and cheese,” said Adrienne Hollis, director of federal policy of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We must ensure food safety and justice for all.”

One way that we get these toxic chemicals out of our food supply? Major food manufacturers can look into their supply chain—farms, manufacturing facilities, and materials used in preparation and packaging—and find and eliminate any and all sources of these toxic chemicals. That’s exactly what we’re urging Kraft Heinz, the leading dairy food manufacturer in the U.S., to do.

Big companies like Kraft have the power—and the responsibility—to lead the whole food industry in helping to protect the health of kids and families from toxic chemicals like phthalates.

Sign and share our petition calling on Kraft to do the right thing and take public action to keep toxic phthalates out of food!

Interested in learning more our investigation of dairy farm equipment for phthalates? Read the full report here. And then sign our petition demanding action from Kraft!

Thank you for taking action. Together, our voices will make all the difference.