A new report by environmental advocacy groups should have everyone alert about the packaging on your fast food or takeout. According to environmental advocacy groups like Toxic-Free Future and Mind the Store, food chains may be using PFAS (Perfluorooctanoic acids) in their packaging. PFAS are dangerous man-made chemicals like perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, and scientists believe that exposure to PFAS over a long period of time may lead to harmful health effects like cancer.
A recent test conducted by the environmental advocacy groups revealed toxic PFA substances in the food packaging of Burger King’s burgers, chicken nuggets, and cookies; in Wendy’s paper bags; and in McDonald’s wrappers for their burgers, french fries, and cookies. Additionally, the “environmentally friendly” molded fiber bowls and containers sold by the Mediterranean chain Cava, the Canadian franchise Freshii, and salad chain Sweetgreen all tested extremely high for PFAS. These results show that ecologically friendly doesn’t necessarily mean human health-friendly.
However, not all fast food packaging products contained these dangerous chemicals. For example, paperboard cartons or clamshell packaging sold at the three burger chains all tested below the screening level. According to microbiologist Linda Birnbaum, the former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, these results show that it is possible for food packaging to be made without the dangerous PFA chemicals.
This report on PFAS chemicals found in so-called environmentally friendly packaging versus those found in fast food packaging has forced fast food chains to heavily consider not only making their packaging more environmentally friendly, but also more human heath friendly. Since the research has come out, Sweetgreen, Cava, and McDonald’s have all put out statements on their efforts to limit their PFAS levels in packaging. Sweetgreen stated that they hope to eliminate these toxins by the end of 2020, Cava hopes to eliminate PFAS in their packaging by 2021, and McDonald’s announced that they are trying to limit the amount of PFAS found in their food packaging all across the world. This sets a wonderful precedent to other restaurants to ensure that they are prioritizing human health and the environment.