Is Fast-Food Packaging Bad for You?

There have been a lot of dos and don’ts in the past few years regarding food packaging. The last one we remember is the BPA (Bisphenol A, an organic synthetic compound) ban where everyone had to stop drinking water out of plastic bottles that might have contained BPA. Now it’s happening again. The new threat is the PFAS (Perfluorinated alkylated substances) that you can normally find in hamburger wrappers, pastry bags and French fry containers.

According to new studies, a significant amount of PFAS has been found in these types of food packaging, and the combination of carbon and fluorine is normally found when creating nonstick surfaces like cookware and packaging.

A research team at the University of Notre Dame has performed the tests and, out of 400 samples that have been tested, a chocking amount has come back positive. Of the dessert and bread wrappers, more than half contained PFAS. And if we look at the sandwich and burger wrappers, well over a third of them was contaminated. Paper cups on the other hand were all PFAS-free, and out of the French-fry containers made of paperboard “only” one-fifth contained PFAS.

These results are not something to cheer about, since previous studies show that fluorine in food packaging can migrate into the food it’s holding and cause all sorts of problems. For example, the chemicals are associated with everything from testicular and kidney cancer to low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children.

“This is a really persistent chemical. It gets in the bloodstream; it stays there and accumulates. There are diseases that correlate to it, so we really don’t want this class of chemicals out there.” Says corresponding author Graham Peaslee to the University of Notre Dame News.

So the question now is: why does food packaging contain this toxic chemicals? PFAS is actually the reason paper products can be both grease – and water – resistant, and it stops the paper from getting soggy. According to the study, you can even find it in carpet cleaners, floor waxes and outdoor apparel, among other things.

The researches tried to contact the fast-food chains they’ve been involving, for example McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks, and all but two ignored them. The two that replied stated that they didn’t know their packaging contained PFAS.

But what options do we have if we don’t want a soggy packaging wrapped around our food?! Our grandparents might have the solution; the waxed paper they used to use in their lunch boxes was actually the best option if we look at sustainability.

So, to stay away from soggy burgers and unwanted chemicals, let’s do it hipster way and use some old-school wax paper!


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