The Dangers of Easy Mac

Emily Morris, Staff Intern

Beep! Beep! A rather robotic sound signifies mealtime for countless college students across campus—often a delectable bowl of stemming noodles and neon orange sauce awaits in microwaves.

Despite its simplistic appearance of just a handful of ingredients, “Easy Mac” is actually home to some potentially harmful chemicals and unusual ingredients. However, many companies are able to bypass evolving regulations because of the wonderful convenience of microwave macaroni.    

In fact, Kraft started producing instant macaroni as soon as 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression. The affordable meal appealed to many struggling families, selling eight million boxes for 19 cents each per year, according to Smithsonian.

Similarly, many college students rely on this meal’s convenience while juggling the cost and time commitment of classes. The price of Kraft instant macaroni and cheese has remained reasonable to many, only surpassing a dollar by several cents. Compared to the average price of a restaurant meal, $12.75, or an average single home cooked meal, $4.00, instant macaroni and cheese has the potential to appeal to many, according to The Simple Dollar.

“I usually have three [instant macaroni and cheese meals] a week,” said Brendan Billbury, an Oakland University student and manager to the men’s basketball team. “I need something fast that doesn’t cost much. It’s key to my schedule, otherwise a lot of days I might run out of time to eat.”

Although convenience suggests an obvious decision, consumers are just beginning to be exposed to the products that compose instant macaroni. Even so, some students have veered away from the almost-too-good-to-be-true convenience from day one.

“I’ve just always thought it tasted artificial,” said OU student Phoenix Bell. “I’d rather know all the ingredients in my mac’n’cheese.”

According to a 2014 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware of high concentration of phthalates, a chemical that dangerously disrupts hormones, in this common grocery item but has yet to acknowledge the risks in foods. Because phthalates are not intentionally added to food and are only an accidental fray of plastic material used in packaging, the FDA is still examining  repercussions before taking action, according to an FDA spokeswoman corresponding with The New York Times.  

Phthalates been banned from children’s toys and teething objects, but consumers are still ingesting this destructive chemical through the powdered cheese that adorns almost all instant macaroni and cheese. A recent study from Klean Up Kraft actually found that phthalates were a part of twenty-nine out of thirty samples of different powdered cheese in instant macaroni.  Hence, Europe has placed a ban on any phthalates that come in contact with food because of possible consequences.

As understanding grows, will consumers differ from the product without a formal ban? Health risks seem to be mounting, but instant macaroni is also a necessity for some to stay full and focused during hectic schedules. Without formal stipulations, instant macaroni could remain an opinion between individuals.