A new report by environmental advocacy groups Toxic-Free Future and Mind the Store says that there may be toxic chemicals called PFAS in the wrappers of fast foods or molded-fiber containers. The report was released on Thursday.
The report is a part of a campaign by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to encourage manufacturers to avoid toxic chemicals in products.
The testing in the published report included a total of 38 food packaging samples from 3 states in 16 locations and 6 fast-food chains. Nine out of the 38 samples were replicates, resulting in a total of 29 unique sample items for comparison.
Nearly half of all food packaging samples tested positive for fluorine above the screening level.
Testing performed on different packaging showed that these toxic PFAS substances were present in the food packaging of Burger King’s “Whopper,” chicken nuggets and cookies, Wendy’s paper bags, and in McDonald’s wrappers for the “Big Mac,” french fries and cookies.
McDonald’s Corporation after the report said, “We’ve eliminated significant subset classes of PFASs from McDonald’s food packaging across the world. We know there is more progress to be made across the industry and we are exploring opportunities with our supplier partners to go further.”
Even environmentally friendly molded fiber bowls and containers sold by the Mediterranean culinary chain Cava, the Canadian restaurant franchise Freshii and fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen tested extremely high for PFAS, according to the new report. Paper-fiber containers showed the highest levels of these harmful substances than any packaging tested.
Cava announced it will eliminate PFAS from its food packaging by mid next year after the report came out today.
There were some exceptions and not all of the tested wrappings contained these dangerous chemicals.
Paperboard cartons or clamshells for French fries, potato tots and fried chicken pieces sold at the three burger chains all tested below the screening level, the report found.
Why Should You Care About PFAS
The PFAS chemicals are made up of a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms, which do not degrade in the environment.
In 1946, DuPont first introduced nonstick cookware coated with Teflon. PFAS, short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances are now found in thousands of consumer and commercial products.
Such widespread use of these substances has resulted in contamination of water, soil and the blood of people and animals. these chemicals are extremely resistant to wear and tear and can remain in environment and human bodies for years.
According to previous scientific reports, 99% percent of Americans have these chemicals in their body which can not be broken down and have been linked with variety of health issues.
Other report like 2015 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that PFAS have been detected in the blood of 97% of Americans.
Scientists till date have been unable to estimate an environmental half-life for PFAS, which is the amount of time it takes 50% of the chemical to disappear.
While two of the most abundant PFAS; the 8-carbon chain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were removed from consumer products in the US in the early 2000s but the industry has spawned many more.
Right now, more than 4,700 types of PFAS exist and are used in nonstick cookware, infection-resistant surgical gowns and drapes, cell phones, semi-conductors, commercial aircraft and low-emissions vehicles.
These chemicals have been linked with health issues like testicular, kidney, liver and pancreatic cancer, reproductive problems, weakened childhood immunity, low birth weight, endocrine disruption, increased cholesterol, and even weight gain in children and dieting adults.
The new report also provides us with some healthier and environmentally friendly alternatives that can be used instead of such harmful packaging. These include fluorine-free versions of the same packaging such as burger or sandwich wrappers.
Other alternatives can be to use cardboard clamshells to package burgers or to use paper bags for greasy fries, other fried items, or desserts. They also suggest that paperboard clamshells or other paper cartons free of fluorine can be used as well.