Good news: Fast food packaging is full of toxic chemicals

Illustration for article titled Good news: Fast food packaging is full of toxic chemicals
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Several months ago, science assured us that the odds of getting coronavirus from fast food and takeout were slim to none. We enjoyed our Big Macs and Chalupas in relative peace. Now, science says the packaging of all that food is full of toxic chemicals. Sorry, folks.

A new report titled “Packaged in Pollution: Are food chains using PFAS in packaging?” was published Thursday by environmental advocacy groups Toxic-Free Future and Mind the Store. Testing showed toxic PFAS substances—man-made perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals—in Burger King’s packaging for Whoppers, chicken nuggets, and cookies; in the paper bags at Wendy’s; and in wrappers for McDonald’s Big Mac, french fries, and cookies. And if you think you’ve been avoiding these chemicals by only ordering takeout that comes in environmentally friendly molded fiber containers, you’re not—the study tested containers used by Cava, Freshii, and Sweetgreen, and all tested extremely high for PFAS. In fact, paper-fiber containers showed the highest levels of any packaging tested.


The good news: paperboard cartons or clamshells all tested below the screening level, so your Quarter Pounder isn’t going to fatally poison you. Cava and Sweetgreen have both announced that they are in the process of eliminating the chemicals from their packaging. McDonald’s is also aware of the problem, telling CNN the company has already eliminated some PFASs in its packaging, and is in talks with suppliers to eliminate them completely.

Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.


So, you are saying that eating food from places like Burger King, Wendy’s, or McDonalds might not be healthy?

Seriously though the report does not indicate whether these chemicals are leaching into the food, and if they do, how long it takes for any significant amount to accumulate. This report is like saying there is hazardous material in a car seatbelt; but not explaining the actual risk (none, except possibly to first responders after an accident).