A new report on popular fast food chain food wrappers revealed the presence of toxic PFAS chemicals, in spite of recent widespread awareness of the risks to public health. PFAS are considered a health hazard and a danger to the environment.
Called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), these chemicals are used to make food wrappers resistant to seepage of liquid and grease.
The testing was conducted through the Mind the Store campaign in collaboration with Toxic-Free Future, and performed in February 2020 by an independent laboratory.
Food wrapper samples were collected from six popular fast food chains in three states, from a total of 16 fast-food locations. Of the 38 individual food wrappers tested, nine of them were duplicates and 29 were unique samples.
5. Food Wrapper Test Results
The report stated that “Nearly half of all food packaging samples tested positive for fluorine above the screening level, including for fast food favorites such as McDonald’s Big Mac, Burger King’s Whopper, and Sweetgreen’s salads and warm bowls.”
The Sweetgreen chain is promising to phase out all PFAS by the end of 2020, and has begun rolling out a PFAS-free version of their serving bowls in one location.
Food wrappers for side items like French fries, cookies, and chicken nuggets all tested positive for PFAS.
4. Worldwide Use of PFAS
As explained by the EPA, PFAS are man-made, manufactured around the world, and include a variety of chemicals like GenX (a trademarked non-stick coating), PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate). The most widely used PFAS chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) are difficult to break down and destroy in the body and in the environment.
PFAS are used for a variety of purposes, in addition to food packaging. These chemicals can be found in non-stick cookware, cleaning products, paints, stain-resistant fabrics, and foams used for fire-fighting. Many different protective coatings on products like pizza boxes contain PFAS chemicals.