Read the full article by Danielle Melgar (U.S. PIRG)
“This fall, our partners at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Toxic-Free Future found evidence that food packaging from several fast food chains was likely treated with toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), commonly referred to as ‘forever’ chemicals. Three of the restaurants featured in the report — Sweetgreen, CAVA and Freshii — took immediate action to protect their customers from these chemicals known to threaten human health. On Wednesday, McDonald’s also took action, committing to phase out PFAS-treated food packaging used in its restaurants globally by 2025. However, two remaining restaurants — Burger King and Wendy’s — have yet to take sufficient action.
PFAS is a class of approximately 5,000 chemicals* that share a similar structure and chemical properties. They can be found in firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, rain gear, carpets and many other everyday products. They are used in food packaging to make the packaging more resistant to grease and water.
Unfortunately, some chemicals in the PFAS family have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer, liver damage, increased cholesterol, pregnancy complications and birth defects. Scientists are also studying a potential link between PFAS exposure and more intense COVID-19 symptoms as well as reduced vaccine effectiveness. To make matters worse, the reason PFAS are called ‘forever chemicals‘ is because they break down extremely slowly, which means that they build up in our environment and in our bodies over time.
Given how long they last and what we know about their harmful effects, we should stop using them as quickly as possible. And we should start by making sure we get them out of food packaging; using PFAS to prevent greasy fingers just isn’t worth risking our health and the health of our children.
First, we needed to know where to find these chemicals. So our partners at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Toxic-Free Future tested food packaging items from six restaurants: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Sweetgreen, Freshii and CAVA. They found evidence of PFAS in at least one item from each restaurant…”