That Drive-Thru Order May Contain More Than You Bargained For

Consumer Reports finds excessive amounts of 'forever chemicals' in some fast-food wrappers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2022 11:30 AM CDT
Your Fast-Food Meal May Be Wrapped in 'Forever Chemicals'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/chekyfoto)

You might want to dump those Mickey D's fries onto a plate as soon as you get home. Consumer Reports released an analysis Thursday on packaging at fast-food restaurants and supermarket chains, with a concerning find: Many of the wrappers that hold the fare we pick up at the drive-thru and grocery store are rife with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), aka "forever chemicals," reports the Hill. To conduct its analysis, CR tested numerous samples for total organic fluorine content, taken from 118 food products at 24 eateries and retailers in Connecticut, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

From those samples gathered between August and November of last year, quite a few big names showed up as having excessive amounts of PFAS, with at least one form of packaging at or above 100 parts per million total organic fluorine. McDonald's, Burger King, Panera, Chick-fil-A, Arby's, and Nathan's Famous all jumped to the top of the list. Nathan's Famous registered the highest numbers, showing a level of 876 parts per million in a bag of one of its sides.

CNN notes that PFAS—which are used to keep grease and other liquids from seeping through wrappers and cups—get the "forever chemical" designation because they don't disintegrate in the environment. The CDC calls PFAS a "public health concern," with research showing that exposure to high levels of some PFAS may lead to boosted cholesterol levels, heightened risk of kidney or testicular cancer, and a reduction in a person's resistance to infectious diseases like COVID, among others. The CR analysis does note that, since it conducted its sample testing, the companies on its list may have changed their packaging.

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In the meantime, the group offers some tips on steering clear of PFAS, though it can be challenging if you're a fast-food regular. First, try to frequent restaurants that have vowed to cut down on PFAS (though CR notes that not every claim can be taken at face value). Other suggestions: Have your water tested for PFAS and start using a water filter if the level is high; take food out of its packaging as soon as possible; and don't reheat food in its original packaging. (More fast food stories.)

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