When you chomp into a delectable hamburger or nosh on crispy french fries purchased at your favourite fast-food restaurant, more than likely the last idea on your mind is whether or not you’re swallowing hazardous chemicals with each delightful bite. But, perhaps you should be thinking about it, especially in light of a recent Consumer Reports (CR) investigation.
In a detailed research, CR stated that scientists analysed numerous food packaging samples of 118 products sold by 24 different restaurant and retail chains between August and November 2021. Why? They were seeking for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, most popularly known as PFAS. PFAS are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they linger around long after they’re generated and contaminate our soil, water, and even the air. The issue is, research has revealed that some PFAS, which can amass in our bodies over time, can be hazardous to human and animal health.
“Pregnant women who were exposed to PFASs had babies who were born with lower birth weights and who were breastfed for fewer total days. Lower thyroid and kidney function have also been linked to PFAS exposure “According to Dr. Susan Pinney of the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, environmental health is a major concern. Cancers of the kidney, testicle, breast, and prostate have been linked to PFAS, according to the scientific literature.
CR found that eight national fast food and fast casual restaurants were on the “naughty list” due to the presence of elevated amounts of PFAS in at least one food packaging item (such as a sandwich wrapper, paper bag for sides, or kids’ meal fibre tray) (anything over 100 parts per million). Restaurant chains like Arby’s and Burger King are among the eight worst offenders when it comes to packaging, with each having their own uniquely poisonous offerings.
1. Taco Bell’s chip bag
In a study conducted on Taco Bell’s tortilla chip bag, organic fluorine levels were determined to be 145 ppm.
The company committed to phasing out phthalates, BPA, and PFAS from all of its consumer-facing packaging by the year 2025 in 2020.
2. McDonald’s fry bag
Fast food chain McDonald’s used packaging with organic fluorine concentrations of more than 100 parts per trillion. At 250.3 parts per million (ppm), the French fry paper bag was the worst, followed by 250 ppm for cookies, 219 ppm for chicken McNuggets, and 195.3 ppm for the Big Mac container.
It seems like Mickey D’s will have a lot of work to do in the coming year in order to be in compliance with the new legislation in California. The company has promised to phase out PFAS by 2025.
3. Sweetgreen’s bread bag
Paper bag used to transport focaccia from popular salad business tested positive for organic fluorine at 288 parts per million.
In spite of our inquiries, Sweetgreen remained silent. Consumer Reports did receive the following information from the retailer: “Our water might contain a little bit of fluorine. These per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are unfortunately ubiquitous, showing up in everything from drinking water and air to soil.”
4. Burger King’s bag for sweet treats
In the case of Burger King, a paper bag containing cookies and French toast sticks contained 345.7 ppm organic fluorine, making it a major offender. Also banned in California as of January 1, 2019 are the chain’s Whopper Wrapper and bag for chicken nuggets, both of which contained levels above 100 ppm.
On the same day that CR’s report came out, Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes’ parent company, Restaurant Brands International, issued a joint statement saying they would phase out the use of PFAS in all of their consumer packaging across the world by the end of 2025.
5. Arby’s cookie bag
The organic fluorine concentration on the cookie package from Arby’s was 457.5 ppm.
The parent company of Arby’s, Inspire Brands, did not provide us with a statement despite our repeated inquiries.
6. Chick-fil-A’s sandwich wrapper
It was determined that the chicken chain’s sandwich wrapper contained 553.5 ppm organic fluorine, making it a top offender.
A representative from Chick-fil-A sent the following statement in response to our inquiry: “All newly created packaging will no longer include any PFAS at Chick-fil-A, as this practise has been discontinued. It is possible that some older packaging will still be in use at eateries, but it will likely be completely phased out by the fall.”
7. The children’s dinner tray at CAVA
A total of 548 parts per million (ppm) of organic fluorine was detected in CAVA’s fibre tray for children’s meals, and another total of 508.3 ppm was detected in the fibre bowl used to store grains. The pita wrapper and pita chip bag were two of five goods sold by the company that had more than 100 ppm of tetrachloroethylene.
The company informed Eat This, Not That!, “We remain committed to eliminating added PFAs from all food packaging and have teamed with like-minded new suppliers that are equipped to meet CAVA’s promise to sustainably produced packaging with no added PFAs. “The transition to eliminating additional PFAs, which began in August of 2021, is taking longer than intended due to numerous circumstances associated with the pandemic, most notably worldwide supply chain bottlenecks. Our staff are currently coordinating with our vendors in order to finish the switch over before the end of the year.”
8. Nathan’s Famous bag for sides
The green-striped paper bag that Nathan used for his sides contained 876 ppm organic fluorine, the highest concentration of any of the tested products. A red-striped paper bag from the store fared only slightly better. Sandwich bags from that company registered 104 parts per million.
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