There are more dangers to fast food than their content, new research says. Aside from being loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium, the packaging fast food comes in might also have a detrimental effect on a person’s health.
Researchers found that there are fluorinated chemicals in one-third of fast food packaging they tested. These chemicals are used by manufacturing companies because of their grease-repellent properties, CNN reports. Fluorinated chemicals, sometimes called PFASs, are used “to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to consumer products such as furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmetics (and) cookware,” states a news report accompanying the study.
The news also says, “The most studied of these substances (PFOSs and PFOAs) has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.”
These substances are long-chain PFASs that have been phased out for the most part, in favor of shorter-chain compounds that are said not to last as long in the human body. However, these shortened versions have yet to be thoroughly studied and reviewed.
Previous research has shown that PFASs can transfer from food packaging to the actual food consumed, says Laura Schaider, a scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and an author on the study.
These studies have found that the extent of migration depends on the temperature of the food, the type of food and how long the food is in contact with the paper.
Also, it depends on which specific chemical was used in the packaging.
Scientists at five institutions collaborated on the study. They collected over 400 fast food packaging samples from 27 leading chains in the USA. The kinds of packaging were categorized as: food contact paper (sandwich wrappers and pastry bags), food contact paperboard (boxes for fries or pizza), non-contact paper (outer bags), paper cups, other beverage containers (milk and juice containers) and miscellaneous (lids).
Food contact paper was the worst, with 46% of samples testing positive for fluorine, followed by food contact paperboard at 20%, and beverage containers at 16%.
The researchers did say that “some fluorochemical-free products have been introduced since this study was conducted in 2014 and 2015,” so there are more options available for fast food restaurants.
The study was published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.