Chemicals of Concern in One-Third of Fast Food Packaging: New Study

This is a topic we have spent a good deal of time covering over the past several years.  Due to the level of potential harm, especially among those groups who regularly consume fast food, I have devoted several radio programs to covering the scientific study findings linking these packaging chemicals to a variety of serious, life-altering health conditions.




At the anecdotal level, I have watched as a number of people I know start a downhill slide after many years of regularly consuming fast food (that includes a host of questionable additives in the food, as well the industrial chemicals that seep into fast food from the packaging). Many of us have witnessed contractors, painters, installers, roofers, plumbers, truck drivers, and other professionals that frequently eat fast food as a convenience, who start out young, strapping and filled with energy in their twenties, only to begin a rapid downhill spiral with their health once they round the corner heading towards forty.  These professionals oftentimes face a double whammy–they are not only met with challenges from regular exposure to the chemicals of their trade, but oftentimes without realizing it, adding insult to injury by consuming fast food chemical concoctions for lunch on a daily basis.

There have been a number of scientific studies examining the toxic chemicals in U.S. food packaging over the past several years.  This latest study uncovered fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging they tested. Unfortunately, these industrial chemicals do not remain locked safely away inside the wrappings…


“Previous studies have shown that PFASs can migrate from food packaging into the food you eat.”

-Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and one of the authors of the paper


And that is no small matter…


“The most studied of these substances (PFOSs and PFOAs) has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.”

Scientists at the five institutions that collaborated on the report collected more than 400 samples of fast food packaging from 27 leading US chains.
The types of packaging were split into six categories: food contact paper (sandwich wrappers and pastry bags), food contact paperboard (boxes for fries or pizza), non-contact paper (outer bags), paper cups, other beverage containers (milk and juice containers) and miscellaneous (lids).
Take a look at the chart below that summarizes their findings:

Journal source: Schaider, L., et al.,Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging. 2017, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., Article ASAP

DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00435

Also see this recent scientific research:

Tracking hazardous chemicals from fast-food wrappers in the body

Just one month after major research findings showed dangerous PFAS present in more than one-third of fast food packaging tested, researchers have created a new technique to track PFASs in the body.
. . .

Journal Reference:  Jennifer L. Burkemper, Tolulope A Aweda, Adam J Rosenberg, David Lunderberg, Graham F. Peaslee, Suzanne E. Lapi. Radiosynthesis and biological distribution of [18F]-labeled perfluorinated alkyl substances.. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00042


Also see:

Extensive use of fluorinated chemicals in fast food wrappers: Chemicals can leach into food

Previous studies have linked the chemicals to kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children, among other health issues.

Americans may be consuming fast food wrapped in paper treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — the same chemicals used in stain-resistant products, firefighting materials and nonstick cookware, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Researchers tested more than 400 samples of packaging materials, including hamburger and sandwich wrappers, pastry bags, beverage cups and French fry containers, and found evidence of fluorinated compounds called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). Of the materials tested, these chemicals were found in 56 percent of dessert and bread wrappers, 38 percent of sandwich and burger wrappers and 20 percent of paperboard.

Previous studies have shown that these PFASs can migrate, contaminating the food and, when consumed, accumulating in the body.

Journal Reference:  Laurel A. Schaider, Simona A. Balan, Arlene Blum, David Q. Andrews, Mark J. Strynar, Margaret E. Dickinson, David M. Lunderberg, Johnsie R. Lang, Graham F. Peaslee. Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.6b00435