Many fast food packages contain problematic chemicals (not to worry about though)

Desserts

In 2014, Spaniards spent 3,226 million euros on fast food, but a new study by the University of Berkeley and the Environmental Protection Agency may take away our appetite.

The results are easy to explain: some wrappers and containers used in the fast food world contain harmful chemical compounds and, as far as we know, these compounds can get into food.But, to understand its consequences, we have to dig a little deeper.

The compounds that never just go away

The (highly) fluorinated compounds resist heat, water and oil very well, making them especially problematic in the context of fast food. The study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters did not determine whether these products could be transferred to food, but it was not necessary. We have quite a few studies that have already shown this.

However, these types of substances are not safe. For years they were used in the water purification process and were withdrawn precisely for this reason. For example, perfluorooctanoic acid (a substance that was used to make Teflon or gore-tex) causes high cholesterol, hypertension, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid problems, ulcerative colitis or interferes with the immunization processes of the vaccinations

One in three packages contains problem substances

The researchers collected more than 400 samples from containers at 27 fast food chains in the United States. The technical team led by Graham Peaslee detected fluorinated chemicals in at least a third of the containers. Discounting the glasses (which did not have these products) 57% of the food wrappers, 56% of the dessert wrappers and 38% of the packages of sandwiches and hamburgers and 20% of the boxes of potato chips.

In this list you can see on the packages and wrappers of which chains they found fluorinated compounds. Many of them sell their products in Spain and, although they do not usually share packaging with North American chains, it is something interesting to take into account. Above all, for companies to reflect on the packaging they use.

And it is a complicated situation because many of these these compounds were already theoretically removed from the containers and packaging. Therefore, the researchers point to imports and the sector's poor sanitary and industrial controls.

PFAS in context

But, despite the headlines we have seen these days, we have to put the matter in context. These types of products are very common. Not only are they part of many everyday objects and products (from carpets to non-stick pans), but they have even been found in the tissues of polar bears (which, as far as we know, are not exposed to any type of contaminants ). And, in this context, the levels of these compounds do not pose a threat to public health.

In other words, the search for increasingly safe and efficient products must not lead to dangerous and unspecific chemophobia. As Philippe Grandjean, a professor of environmental health at Harvard University explained, "this is a solvable problem." In fact, it is a problem that we have been solving little by little. Instead, the social alarm is very difficult to control.

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Topics
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  • food
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  • wrappers

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