Harmful Chemicals Found in Fast Food Packaging

Recent reports have shown that fast food packaging may contain many harmful chemicals.


chem·i·cal

plural noun: chemicals

  1. a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially artificially.

The majority of the time, when you order junk food, you know exactly what you're getting: an inexpensive meal that tastes great however is probably loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium.

It turns out that the product packaging your food can be found in could likewise have an unfavorable influence on your health, according to a report released Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Innovation Letters.

The report discovered fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the junk food packaging scientists tested.

These chemicals are preferred for their grease-repellent qualities.

Along with their use in the fast food industry, fluorinated chemicals-- in some cases called PFASs-- are utilized "to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to consumer products such as furnishings, carpets, outside gear, clothes, cosmetics (and) pots and pans," according to a press release that accompanied the report.

" The most studied of these compounds (PFOSs and PFOAs) has actually been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, raised cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormonal agent functioning, in addition to adverse developmental results and decreased immune action in children."

These are long-chain PFASs that have actually mainly been phased out, in favor of shorter-chain compounds that are believed to have much shorter half-lives in the body, but these reduced kinds have not yet been completely studied.

As these chemicals are utilized in many everyday items, customers are exposed to them frequently, and the exact same health effects might not hold true for all of them.

Previous studies have revealed that PFASs can move from food packaging into the food you consume, said Laurel Schaider, a research researcher at the Silent Spring Institute and among the authors of the paper.

" These research studies have discovered that the level of migration depends upon the temperature level of the food, the kind of food and the length of time the food is in contact with the paper," Schaider said. "And it depends upon which specific chemical" remains in the packaging.

What packages are the worst?

Researchers at the 5 institutions that worked together on the report collected more than 400 samples of junk food product packaging from 27 leading United States chains.

The kinds of product packaging were split into 6 classifications: 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 (covers).

Food contact papers were divided into three subcategories: sandwiches, hamburgers and fried foods; Tex-Mex; and desserts and breads.

Food contact paper fared the worst, with 46% of all samples showing content of fluorine. Food contact paperboard was next, at 20%, followed by other beverage containers at 16%. Non-contact paper, paper cups and various all tested with lack of the fluorine.

The researchers did not offer any chain-specific data in order to compare fast food restaurants or figure out which brands scored much better or worse than average.

" For foodservice packaging that needs a barrier finish, 'brief chain' fluorochemicals are used today, so it's no surprise that the study would discover these chemicals," said Lynn M. Dyer, President of the Foodservice Product packaging Institute in the US. "These, like all product packaging products, go through strenuous testing to make sure that they satisfy rigid US Food and Drug Administration guidelines, providing the safe delivery of foods and drinks to consumers."

Dyer included, however, that "some fluorochemical-free products have actually been introduced since this study was carried out in 2014 and 2015," suggesting there are now a greater numbers of choices available for fast food chains to provide oil, grease and/or water resistance.

Exactly what's a consumer to do?

Short of asking that your next hamburger be served in between two covers, there isn't a great deal you can do to prevent PFAS exposure once you have actually decided to eat at a fast food dining establishment.

" Regrettably, for customers, there's no easy way to tell-- just by taking a look at product packaging-- whether or not it consists of fluorinated chemicals," Schaider stated. "For people who wish to decrease their exposure to these chemicals, they might be able to take some steps ... to decrease that migration from packaging into food-- for example, by taking the food out of the product packaging sooner rather than later."

You could also ask that your fries or dessert be served in a paper cup or a noncontact paper bag. This is the outer bag all your items are usually taken into when you get your food.

More than anything, Schaider prompts consumers to put pressure on their favorite fast food chains to change to product packaging that doesn't consist of fluorinated chemicals.

" I think that this research study provides yet another need to support the concept that consuming more fresh food and more home-cooked meals is better for our health," she said, "but it's hard to prevent the convenience of junk food, specifically in people's hectic lives."

Although this does appear to be a huge problem, more professionals and consumers learning about it, and some movement towards non harmful packaging has begun.

Knowledge is the key, let's get the word out and keep pressing for positive changes for the health of everyone using these food services.

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