New tests find ‘forever chemicals’ still in many fast food wrappers

In the recent tests by Consumer Reports, it is unclear what levels of PFAS indicate contamination and what is due to intentional use, but any use of PFAS is too much.
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS have been detected on dozens of food wrappers from major fast food chains, according to new test results released today by Consumer Reports.

The results follow research published in 2017 by the Environmental Working Group in collaboration with academic researchers, federal and state regulatory agencies, and other nonprofit research organizations that tested hundreds of food wrappers, bags and boxes.

In the recent tests by Consumer Reports, it is unclear what levels of PFAS indicate contamination and what is due to intentional use, but any use of PFAS is too much.

“The use of PFAS in food contact materials should end immediately and, because of the incredible toxicity of these chemicals, any detected contamination should be reduced as much as possible,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist.

PFAS are a large family of fluorinated chemicals linked to an increased risk of cancer, harm to fetal development, reduced vaccine effectiveness and other serious health problems.

They are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down in the environment and they build up in our organs.

Nearly everyone tested in the U.S. has PFAS compounds in their blood, with exposure from many sources, including food, water, consumer products and dust.

Fast food chains, the packaging industry and the FDA have all been slow to remove these chemicals from wrappers.

In 2003, EWG sent letters to the CEOs of nine fast food chains asking them to stop using PFAS. Instead, most companies – in a process of regrettable substitution – switched from using one PFAS to another compound from the same family.

We now know many of the replacement PFAS are no safer, and FDA researchers focused on currently used PFAS have found that the health concerns have been significantly underestimated.

In June, EWG and other organizations petitioned the FDA to end all uses of PFAS in food packaging. The groups urged the FDA to study all routes of exposure to PFAS when considering whether the chemicals are safe for use in food.

Between 2002 and 2016, the FDA approved 19 PFAS for use in food packaging, despite increasing concerns about the health risks of PFAS exposure.

In 2020, the FDA announced that manufacturers of 15 different approved types of food packaging using PFAS would slowly phase out use its, but the FDA has not yet banned all PFAS from food packaging.

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