In a letter sent to US-based food company General Mills, nonprofit organisation Consumer Reports (CR) has highlighted the dangers of potentially hazardous plastic chemicals in its food products.

CR tested 85 different foods and found that Annie’s Organic Cheesy Ravioli made by General Mills had the highest level of phthalates of any product it tested.

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Phthalates are a plasticiser – a chemical used to make plastics more flexible and durable – and have been linked to many health concerns.

The Annie’s Organic Cheesy Ravioli product reportedly contained 53,579 nanograms of phthalates in a single serving – 75% higher than the closest canned pasta meal in its test. Other General Mills products also had concerning levels of phthalates in CR’s tests, including its branded yoghurt, Cheerios cereal, corn and vegetable soup.

General Mills has been advised to conduct testing to identify where plastics are entering its production chain to ensure consumer safety.

How do chemicals enter food?

Chemicals can get into food through packaging, regardless of the type of packaging used. Some companies require suppliers to certify that the food packaging used is free of bisphenols and phthalates.

The chemicals can also infiltrate food from exposure to plastic in tubing, conveyor belts and gloves used during food processing. Phthalates can even enter directly into meat and produce via contaminated water and soil.

CR director of food policy Brian Ronholm commented: “Our tests found that some food products had much lower levels of phthalates, demonstrating that it is possible to reduce their presence.”

In 2023, the FDA upheld its initial denial of a citizen petition seeking a ban on certain chemicals used in plastic for food packaging.