There Are Dangerous Chemicals in Your Fast Food Wrappers — Even at the “Healthy” Joints

The return of "forever chemicals"

Fast food
Fast food might be unhealthy in ways you didn't see coming.
Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Over the last few years, scientists have raised our awareness of the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)— also known as “forever chemicals” — in everyday objects. You can find them in everything from seltzer to rain gear, which can lead to their presence in the environment, the human body or both. Now, there’s something else that people encounter on a regular basis which also turns out to be home to forever chemicals: fast food wrappers.

And while some of the chains cited by a new Consumer Reports study don’t necessarily have a reputation for healthy dining — think McDonald’s, think Arby’s — you’ll also find Sweetgreen on there, for instance. The phrase “no-win situation” comes to mind.

The Guardian published an alarming summary of the study’s results, written by Consumer Reports‘ Kevin Loria. As Loria writes, this study involved looking into 118 different types of food packaging available at various fast food establishments.

The process of testing involved looking into the packaging’s overall fluorine content. Over half of the packages tested had “evidence of PFAS,” while a third contained “levels beyond a threshold supported by CR experts and others.” As for what objects tended to have the highest levels of PFAS, paper bags used to hold fries, chips or bread seemed to be the most PFAS-heavy.

Loria points out that the ubiquity of PFAS makes it difficult to tell where in the process these come from — the ink used for printing a chain’s logo on their bags might be the source of it for some, for instance. It’s an alarming piece of news — and something to think about the next time you’re looking for a quick bite to eat.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.