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Advocates Urge Food Industry to Follow McDonald’s on PFAS Packaging

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There are more than 5,000 types of PFAS chemicals, a portion of which are found in fast-food packaging. (Adobe Stock)
There are more than 5,000 types of PFAS chemicals, a portion of which are found in fast-food packaging. (Adobe Stock)
 By Nadia Ramlagan - Producer, Contact
February 9, 2021

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- After McDonald's recent announcement it will stop using toxic chemicals called PFAS in its food packaging, health advocates are urging other major restaurant chains to do the same.

McDonald's is the first major company to announce a PFAS phase-out.

Danielle Melgar, "Zero Out Toxics" advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, said the chemicals in fast-food packaging can leach into food and end up in soil and drinking water when the packaging gets thrown away.

"As the largest burger chain in the world, this commitment matters for two reasons," Melgar contended. "First, that's just a lot of packaging that will be PFAS-free by 2025. And second, this may help move other companies to make similar commitments."

She noted alternative grease-resistant technologies exist.

McDonald's is the largest fast-food chain in the world, with more than 25 million people purchasing meals daily in more than 38,000 restaurant locations worldwide.

Testing performed last year by Toxic-Free Future and other advocacy groups found nearly half of all food packaging samples tested positive for PFAS above the screening level.

Melgar explained PFAS have been linked to a host of health problems in humans, including high cholesterol, kidney and liver problems, low birth weight and cancer.

"And then recent research has also looked into a potential link between PFAS exposure and more severe COVID-19 symptoms, as well as reduced COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness," Melgar added.

She believes federal legislation reducing PFAS use in food packaging and other industries is needed to help protect the health of citizens.

"Ultimately we can't rely on just the goodwill of these companies and getting them to do the right thing," Melgar asserted. "We need lasting legislative change that will help move us in the direction of phasing out PFAS in food packaging."

It's estimated 90% of Americans have some level of PFAS in their bodies.

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