Nearly 1/2 of the food packaging tested from popular chains contain “forever chemicals”

There is no shortage of toxics entering our bodies these days, between wildfire smoke, chemicals from consumer products, and now toxics in our food packaging.

A new study published last month, Packaged in Pollution: Are food chains using PFAS in packaging?, by OEC’s partners Toxic Free Future and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition concluded that nearly half of the food packaging used from popular chains contain toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) (“forever chemicals”)—despite increasing consumer demand and legislative action to phase out the use of toxic chemicals in food packaging.

The study involved laboratory tests for a total of 38 food packaging samples from 3 states in 16 locations and 6 fast-food chains for fluorine to screen for the presence of PFAS. It focuses on top fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, and fast-casual chains like Sweetgreen, Cava, and Freshii. Four out of the six food chains studied do not have a public chemical policy. Out of all the fast food chains tested, McDonald’s and Burger King had PFAS found in the most samples- including in Big Mac boxes and french fry sleeves.

Prior to this 2020 study, a 2019 Mind the Store Report card also gave McDonald’s a grade F on their use of toxic chemicals in consumer products, and an OEC sample of McDonald’s vinyl gloves tested positive for toxic chemicals called phthalates.

Health effects of PFAS

Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are a class of synthetic, man-made chemicals, comprised of 4,000 individual chemicals. The health effects of PFAS exposure include: effect on growth and development, hormonal and reproductive disruptions, thyroid disruptions, weakened immune systems, liver damage, and cancer- in both humans and animals. Contaminated drinking water is the biggest culprit of exposure.

There is hope!

Our advocacy is working. In response to this study, Cava recently announced it will eliminate PFAS from its food packaging by mid-2021. And other major food retailers including Sweetgreen, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Taco Bell, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market have committed to moving away from PFAS food packaging.

Demand that McDonald’s phase out toxic packaging!

Because McDonald’s has consistently tested positive for toxic chemicals in their packaging, gloves and consumer products, OEC and its partners are asking our members to contact McDonald’s CEO. Tell McDonald’s: Your customers don’t want these chemicals in their food. And no one wants them polluting the environment forever, either!

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