New Study Shows Toxic Chemicals in Some Fast Food Wrappers

Grease-resistant containers are among those most likely to be affected

February 2, 2017
Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Studies have long shown that eating fast food on a regular basis might be detrimental to one’s health, but those concerns are generally directed at the greasy, often fried foods themselves.

However, new research indicates that fast food wrappers may also be harmful. In a study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, food packaging was examined at 27 different restaurants and local eateries across the country, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks. Researchers found that roughly a third of the packaging contained potentially toxic perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which have been linked to everything from high blood pressure to thyroid issues to an increased likelihood of kidney cancer. The PFCs are reportedly especially likely to be found in the grease-resistant paper packaging used on fried and typically greasy foods like burritos, donuts, and fried chicken.

Even the most ardent of fast food fans are unlikely to advocate eating a cheeseburger wrapper, but prior research has shown container chemicals may well seep into the food being packaged, though it’s difficult to measure the extent of that contamination.

Thankfully, researchers also offered a simple solution: fast food chains can just use better packaging. “There are PFC-free food wrappers readily available,” David Andrews, one of the scientists involved with the study, said in a statement.

Significant as it may be, this study pales in comparison to the infamous McDonald’s Cheeseburger Experiment conducted a few years back on the Stern Show, in which staffer Jason Kaplan left a cheeseburger on his desk for a full year so all could witness the food’s degradation over time. As it turned out, those things are built to last.

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