Wendy’s bans toxic chemicals in its food packaging that it’s been using this whole time

wendy's exterior
Photo: Education Images / Contributor (Getty Images)

Wendy’s recently announced that it will be removing all toxic chemicals PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from its consumer-facing packaging by the end of 2021, in Canada and the US, the advocacy organization Safer Chemicals Healthy Families reports. That’s nice and all, but holy shit there were toxic chemicals in the food packaging this whole time?

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PFAS, the EPA says, are chemicals used in many industries worldwide, since the ’40s. These chemicals are both persistent in the environment and the human body, meaning they accumulate over time, don’t break down easily, and are associated with a myriad of health problems.

The most-studied PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS. Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals. The most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:

  • low infant birth weights,effects on the immune system,cancer (for PFOA), andthyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).

PFAS can be found in food wrapped in packaging containing the chemicals, food processed with machinery that used PFAS, and food grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water. If I had to guess, we’ve all been—and are continuing to be—exposed to these chemicals, as they can also be found in common household products (like polishes, waxes, paints, and nonstick products like Teflon), drinking water, and other living organisms whose systems have accumulated PFAS over time.

Wendy’s is not the only company that’s been using these chemicals in its packaging. Burger King has, too, and has been mum on the issue, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families reports.

“Wendy’s is taking meaningful action at a pace we’re thrilled to see,” says Mike Schade, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign, which pushes retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals in packaging and products and to develop better and safer chemical policies. “This announcement proves that it is feasible for large companies to phase out PFAS in food packaging by the end of this year. But now the big question is, will Burger King finally take action? Our testing found that these chemicals are likely being used in packaging at Burger King—including the wrapper for the Whopper. With more than 2 million Whoppers sold per day, this impacts millions of people each week.”

What say you, Burger King, King of Burgers? Safer Chemicals Healthy Families just threw you under the bus. I thought you were our noble king, sworn to protect us with Whoppers and hand-breaded crispy chicken sandwiches. Apparently we can’t trust Whoppers now either. In any case, this news from Wendy’s is a step in the right direction, and let’s hope others follow suit as soon as possible.

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Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

If I had to guess, we’ve all been—and are continuing to be—exposed to these chemicals”

PFOA you will be for the rest of your life. It stopped being produced over 10 years ago originally due to its long half life, it is considered a forever chemical, WHO calssifies it as group B (possibly carcinogenic to humans), studies ended when production ended. It was used in everything from food packaging, to scotch guard, firefighting foam, etc... It was the miracle chemical of its day.