Large amounts of dangerous chemicals have been found in food packaging. PFAS are chemicals used by restaurants and manufacturers to keep water and grease out of the packaging. They are used in a variety of objects including nonstick pans, clothing, stain-resistant furniture, carpets and even cellphones. The CDC has classified exposure to PFAS as a public health concern because of their potential harm to the immune system, increase in cholesterol levels and higher risk of developing kidney cancer. 

Empty McDonald’s containers with potentially dangerous chemicals. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo/Lenscap

PFAS have been in use since the 1950s when they were first discovered. As a result, most Americans already have some level of PFAS in their blood with people in 1999, on average, having 60% more PFAS than people in 2014. These chemicals are commonly found in fast-food packaging, and according to a 2018 Consumer Reports study, almost two-thirds of takeout boxes made of paper contain harmful levels of PFAS. 

These dangerous chemicals seep into food with more PFAS, contaminating the food depending on how long the meal has been in the container and the temperature inside it. Many renowned companies still use PFAS in their packaging, including Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Burger King. Chick-fil-A, especially, has a large number of PFAS with over 500 parts per million found in a Consumer Reports investigation. Although there isn’t a federal law limiting the amount of PFAS allowed in packaging, some states like New York and California have passed regulatory limits, with California setting the limit at less than 100 ppm. 

After 2018, many companies started pledging to rid of all PFAS in packaging. Whole Foods was the first grocery store to remove PFAS, and other companies like McDonald’s and Trader Joe’s followed suit. These companies have already started removing PFAS with plans to rid of PFAS by the end of this year. 

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