A necessary Slate corrective to the much-read New York Times piece on Mac n’ Cheese that we covered here on Kveller throws a little bit of cold water on the pasta-boiling panic that ensued this weekend, noting a few points overlooked by the original piece, and study.
Mostly, author Susan Matthews emphasizes that the study cited by the Times examines the presence of chemicals called phthalates, but not the amount of them, and that it would likely take a really really massive consumption of boxed mac n’cheese to cause serious harm.
The important thing for all of us, parents and non-parents, is to try to limit exposure to these chemicals across various fields—including food, cleaning products, cosmetics and more—rather than freaking out about one thing in particular.
So the usual rules about focusing on fresh over processed foods when possible apply, but that’s about it. As she writes, “the story is incomplete at best and fearmongering at worst. It’s a piece about toxicity, but there is one glaring omission: dosage, or an explanation of how much phthalate exposure is dangerous to human health.”
Furthermore, Matthews adds that the most damaging aspect of the piece is the panic it might cause in pregnant women.
“What we should not do is turn preliminary research into news stories that scare people—particularly pregnant women, who have plenty to worry about. The story was the top-read New York Times story when I came across it Thursday evening. It reached me via a friend who is currently pregnant and was suddenly worried about her mac and cheese habit.
Sathyanarayana, who told me she spends a lot of time talking to pregnant women, assured me that people shouldn’t panic. The actionable advice here is still the same—pregnant women should be sure to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, and isn’t reliant on processed food. But as long as you’re keeping your mac and cheese intake below multiple boxes a day, there’s no need to be overly alarmed.”
It’s a fair point. I was in a tizzy about my food choices when I was pregnant (and I definitely ate a bunch of Annie’s mac n’ cheese during that time). So in general, moderation in all things is a good rule of thumb.
This is the last article we’re going to publish at Kveller about the Great Mac ‘n’ Cheese Panic of 2017, we promise.* Check out our alternative recipes here.
*lol OK, we don’t promise promise, but we’ll try our very best to avoid all but the most dire breaking Mac ‘n’ Cheese news.