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Detecting dangerous chemicals in food wrappers at many famous chain stores

Indicators PFAS at the highest levels found in food packaging of fast-food chains Nathan’s Famous, Cava, Arby, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Stop & Shop and Sweetgreen, according to an investigation released by Consumer Reports on March 24.

Often referred to as “permanent chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment, PFAS are used in food packaging to prevent grease and water from seeping through food wrappers and beverage cups. PFAS can also be found in inks used to print logos and instructions on food containers.

The new report comes more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, and people rely heavily on take-out deliveries.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls exposure to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) a “public health concern”. At the same time, the US CDC cites studies showing that these man-made chemicals can harm the immune system and reduce a person’s ability to fight off infectious diseases.

“There is evidence from human and animal studies that exposure to PFAS may decrease antibody response to vaccines,” the CDC and the US Registry of Toxic Substances and Diseases said. further study to understand how PFAS exposure may affect illness from COVID-19″.

Detecting dangerous chemicals in food wrappers at many famous chain stores - Photo 1.

PFAS is often found in many fast food paper containers (Image: Web MD)

The Consumer Reports investigation collected 118 packaged food products sold by 24 companies in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area. Consumer Reports tested those products for organofluorine, an indicator for PFAS. The researchers then sent samples of the product with the highest concentrations to an independent lab that could perform more specific tests.

Regulatory limits for PFAS limits on food packaging can vary widely. In the US, there is no federal limit, the states decide on this limit. Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington have passed bills to intentionally ban the use of PFAS in food packaging, but have yet to set limits, according to Consumer Reports. In January 2023, a new law in the state of California will set the limit at less than 100 ppm (parts per million).

However, Denmark has set a much lower regulatory limit of 20 ppm, said Xenia Trier, a specialist in chemicals, environment and human health at the European Environment Agency.

Consumer Reports’ investigation found the highest readings for PFAS were 876 ppm and 618 ppm in two bags at the popular Nathan restaurant chain.

High PFAS readings (500 ppm) were also found in Chick-fil-A sandwich wrappers and in fiber bowls at Cava, a Mediterranean restaurant chain.

Levels of 300 ppm and 400 ppm were found in a bag of biscuits at Arby, bamboo paper plates at Stop & Shop, and in bags of biscuits and french toast at Burger King.

Levels of the PFAS indicator 200 ppm were found in a Sweetgreen paper bag for focaccia and supplements at Cava and in bags for fries, cookies and McNuggets fried chicken at McDonald’s.

In addition to effects on the immune system, the Registry of Toxic Substances and Diseases says, studies in humans and laboratory animals have found a link between certain PFAS chemicals and an increase in cholesterol levels. , changes in liver enzymes, a higher risk of developing kidney disease or testicular cancer, a slight decrease in birth weight, and an increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women.

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