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Consumer Alert: Toxins Found in One-Third of U.S. Fast Food Packaging


You may want to skip picking up a quick bite to eat from your favorite drive-thru for lunch. Earlier this week, a report published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology Letters revealed the presence of fluorinated chemicals in a whopping one-third of the fast food packaging tested in a comprehensive study performed by the Silent Spring Institute.

Researchers at the Silent Spring Institute investigated upwards of 400 paper wrappers, paperboard containers and paper beverage containers from fast food eateries across America.

*Graphic provided by ACS Publications here.

The team checked for total fluorine levels and found that 46% of the wrappers and 20% of the paperboard samples tested positive for containing fluorine. An additional analysis of 20 of the samples revealed the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in an alarming 70% of those examined. PFASs are highly persistent (and potentially volatile) synthetic chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of dire health effects including an increased cancer risk, decreased fertility, developmental issues in children, immunotoxicity and much more. Yikes!

The good news? PFASs are starting to be phased out of the U.S. food system. But not so fast – the researchers caution that these toxins exist in a wide range of concentrations meaning that their underlying sources can come from recycled materials and other unknown, untraceable supply systems.

So what can you do to steer clear of these seemingly omnipresent chemicals?

How to Avoid Risky Fast Food Packaging

Thankfully, there are some simple ways to reduce your usage of fast food packaging when dining out so that you can decrease your exposure to these alarming toxins. It’s suggested that you:

  • Bring your own cup or mug from home when buying a beverage.
  • Pack a bottle or mug in your bag when travelling (especially if you’re flying).
  • Come equipped with your own food storage containers when heading to your favorite fast food restaurant.
  • When taking home leftovers from a restaurant, bring your own food storage container from home or ask the server to wrap the food in aluminum foil instead.


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