- Takeaways, food
manufacturers use grease-proof papers and boxes to pack fast food like
burger, pizza, fries and desserts.
papers, cardboards, drink containers have PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl
substances), a group of fluorinated chemicals.
- Exposure to some
PFASs has been associated with cancer, thyroid disease, immune
suppression, low birth weight, and decreased fertility.
Junk Food Packing also
Along with the many
reasons to avoid fast food or junk food
here's a new one. The
packaging materials used for the burger and fries may contain fluorinated
chemicals that are harmful. The shocking news is that, these chemicals can
leach into the food it is packed.
, burgers, fries
and tacos have a greese-proof packing which are
resistant to oil and the penetration of grease. Grease-proof papers are
produced by paper-making techniques but involve the use of special pulps and a
degree of mechanical beating or refining.
‘Exposure to some per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances present in wrappers used to pack junk food has been associated with cancer, thyroid disease, immune suppression, low birth weight, and decreased fertility.’
A recent peer-reviewed
study has found the prevalence of highly fluorinated chemicals in fast food
packaging in the United States. The research team tested more than 400 samples
from 27 fast food chains throughout the country.
paperboard, and drink containers were tested for the presence of a class of
chemicals called PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)
PFASs are not naturally
found in the environment. They are man-made chemicals that contain carbon and fluorine atoms. The chain length
, or the number of carbon
atoms, in the molecule differentiates one molecule from another. PFASs
are usually used in carpeting, cookware, outdoor apparel as well as food
packaging for their non-stick, water-proof properties.
gamma-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy, the samples were analyzed for fluorine,
a marker of PFASs.
The team detected fluorine
in almost half of paper wrappers used as burger wrappers and pastry bags and 20
percent of paperboard used as boxes for fries and pizza.
PFASs - How Harmful is
Firstly, exposure to
some PFASs has been associated with cancer, thyroid disease, immune suppression, low birth
weight, and decreased fertility.
When the food comes in contact with
the wrapper, it leaches some of the toxins it contains.
have been linked to numerous health problems, so it's concerning that people are
potentially exposed to them in food," says Laurel Schaider, an
environmental chemist at Silent Spring Institute and the study's lead author.
of children in the U.S. consume fast food every day and along with the food,
they may also ingest these toxins that cause diseases
studies have pointed out that PFASs from consumer products accumulate in
landfill sites and can migrate into groundwater, potentially impacting drinking
Though PFASs are allowed in compostable food packaging, it
can affect levels in soil and crop plants.
conducted a more detailed study on a subset of 20 samples to characterize the
different types of PFASs present. Samples that were high in fluorine, also
C8 or PFOA
(perfluorooctanoic acid) were found in six of the samples. Due to health
hazards, several of the major manufacturers in the U.S.
agreed to stop using C8 compounds in food packaging after a review by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration in 2011.
Since then, the
packaging materials with PFOA were phased out.
But, other countries still produce them,
and many companies have been replacing them with shorter-chain PFAS compounds,
some of which were detected in the study. PFASs are sometimes intentionally
added as they have a non-sticky surface to the wrapper and keeps the food
including the newer replacements, are highly resistant to degradation and will
remain in the environment for a long time," says co-author Graham Peaslee,
a physicist at the University of Notre Dame who developed the PIGE method to
screen food wrappers.
"Because of this,
these highly fluorinated chemicals are not sustainable and should not be used
in compostable products or any product that might end up in a landfill."
Arlene Blum, founder of the
Green Science Policy Institute and co-author of the study explains that none of
the replacement compounds for PFAs have been shown to be safe for human
It is therefore
advisable to reduce the use of the entire class of fluorinated compounds and
opt for non-fluorinated alternatives which are neither harmful to health nor
- Food-packaging Materials: Their Composition and Uses; a Report, National Research Council (U.S.). Food Protection Committee.
- Basic Information about Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) - (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-about-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfass)