For decades, fast food has been an easy way to fill the belly without emptying the bank account, but some customers have been getting more than they bargained for with every purchase.
For years now, packaging from some leading fast-food chains has contained PFAS, a group of synthetic and toxic chemicals used since the 1940s to produce materials that are resistant to water, fire, stains and grease.
The chemicals have been linked to increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, decreased birth weight and decreased vaccine response in children.
Several major fast-food companies pledged to stop using PFAS packaging within the next several years after a recent investigation from Consumer Reports found evidence of PFAS chemicals in packaging from two dozen restaurants and grocery store chains.
Several of the companies, like Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle and McDonald’s, have locations in Indiana.
More than 9,000 different types of PFAS chemicals exist, but common testing methods can only identify several dozens of them. Researchers for Consumer Reports tested products for total organic fluorine content, one of the compounds that make up PFAS chemicals.
PFAS chemicals were found in food wrappers, containers for fries and other foods, baking cups and bowls.
The highest concentrations of organic fluorine were found in small grease-proof bags, which hold popular items like a small order of fries, cookies and chicken nuggets, and sandwich wrappers.
Of the food chains available in Indiana, McDonald’s and Burger King had the most food packaging products with PFAS, but Chick-fil-A’s sandwich wrap contained the largest count of organic fluorine.
Soon after the study was released, restaurant chains that had not already done so began to pledge to get rid of PFAS packaging.
Chick-fil-A announced it would immediately eliminate PFAS from its newly produced packaging and would phase out existing PFAS packaging by the end of summer.
Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, will remove PFAS packaging from its Burger King, Popeye’s and Tim Hortons restaurants by 2025.
Besides food packaging, PFAS chemicals have also been found in some processed foods, like fish sticks, canned tuna and protein powder.