The Dangers Behind Fast Food Packaging
We’ve all known for a long time that eating fast food is bad for you. It’s greasy, fatty, high in sodium and the calorie count is obscene. Now comes news that even the packaging that food comes in might be dangerous to your health.
A new study found dangerous chemical compounds in almost half of the 400 fast food containers it tested from 27 fast food franchises. Packaging tested in this study came from the Big Four: McDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Starbucks and Yum! Brands, Inc., which operates Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and WingStreet.
The substances in question are perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). That’s the same stuff that once was used to make Dupont’s Teflon before it had to be removed from the market. It’s also used in carpeting, furniture, clothing and cosmetics because of its water-repellant and stain-resistant qualities. We’re exposed to it every day.
PFCs break down in the human body when ingested and become per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). They are highly persistent synthetic chemicals associated with cancer, liver damage, developmental toxicity, reproductive problems, immunotoxicity and other health effects. We use PFCs in food packaging because they help keep oil and grease from soaking through the wrappings and the bags.
We didn’t know PFASs were dangerous in this way until the early 2000s or so. When that fact became clear, the government banned the use of some PFCs in food wrappers. Others remain approved for such use.
Different Franchises, Different Levels of Wrapper Chemicals
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, made some disturbing discoveries about what is still in food packaging today. A whopping 46 percent of paper wrappers and 20 percent of paperboard box samples contained a PFC called fluorine. Hot and cold beverage paper cups, on the other hand, contained no significant levels of fluorine.
Those paper wrappers surround your McDonald’s burgers, Taco Bell burritos and Quiznos subs. Your french fries, pizzas and Big Macs come in those paperboard boxes. Overall, the study found that breads, desserts and Tex-Mex foods are most often wrapped in these forms of packaging.
At Quiznos, Jimmy John’s and Taco Time, 100 percent of packaging samples tested positive for perfluorinated chemicals. Zero percent of the packaging at Carl’s Jr., Five Guys and Round Table Pizza had such chemicals. Other chains like Subway, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Arby’s fell somewhere in the middle.
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2.
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