Could the chemicals used in cardboard fast food packaging be as bad for you as the contents?
As unhealthy as the contents: fast food packaging. Drawing by ArtMari (via Shutterstock).
You’ve had a tiresome day at work and the last thing you want to do is cook. Being as it is a Friday, you consider the fried chicken shop or the chippy. The last thing you expect to know about is the packaging, unless your real concern is its stability.
Did you know that the packaging of your favourite pizza, fried chicken, hamburger, or steak slice could be as unhealthy as the food you enjoy? Though we tend not to eat the container or the paper bag, the chemicals inside takeaway packaging could be affecting our health. In a survey by the American Chemical Society, some of the chemicals from the paperboard box or burger wrappers can seep into our food.
The chemicals in question are polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl substances. Known as PFASs for short, they are associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, and other health effects. For their study, four hundred examples of packaging came from American fast food restaurants from A&W to Wendy’s.
During their test they found that 46% of paper wrapping and 20% of cardboard containers had traces of fluorine. Of those containing fluorine, this included:
56% of Dessert and Bread Wrappers;
38% of Burger Wrappers and Sandwich Wrappers;
20% of Paperboard;
0% of Paper Cups.
So, where we go from here, if we fancy a steak slice, a Margherita pizza or an oversized baguette? If you’re tucking into your favourite takeaway at home, empty the contents onto a suitable plate or bowl. Tea or coffee is best enjoyed in a proper mug than a paper cup anyway.