Food packaging

Dangerous chemicals found in some fast food packaging

When you grab fast food, the last thing on your mind is the paper wrapper.

“I’ve always been told that Styrofoam is worse than paper. But I really don’t know,” lunchtime customer Ryan Harper told us outside a fast food joint.

But it was surprising to learn that Consumer Reports had just sounded the alarm about some fast food packaging.

In a report titled Dangerous PFAS chemicals are in your food packaging, The nonprofit advocacy group says PFAS, sometimes called “forever chemicals,” are found in some of the grease- and water-resistant fiber wraps and bowls used by many fast-food restaurants.

Consumer Reports says the chemicals have been linked to immune system suppression and even cancer.

Brian Ronholm of Consumer Reports said that “of the products we tested, of the 118 products, 37 of them had levels above 25 parts per million. Those are pretty disturbing readings if you step back. When you go over 20 parts per million, that’s when you start worrying about the levels.”

You can read their full investigation here.

How to protect yourself

So what can you do to protect your family when you receive take-out burgers, fries, chicken, maybe cookies, and you’re not sure what’s in that package? Ronholm says your best bet is to “take them out of the packaging as quickly as possible and put them on a plate at home.”

And the most important thing, he says, is to never microwave fast food in its packaging.

Companies promise change

Following Consumer Reports’ investigation, McDonald’s, Burger King and Chick-fil-A all took to social media, promising to phase out PFAS over the next few years. In the meantime, Arby’s has sent us a statement saying they will phase them out by the end of 2022.

Ronholm says that’s good news because “they don’t break down in the environment and stay in our bodies for a very long time.”

So don’t assume the packaging is just paper, so you stay safe and don’t waste your money.


Don’t Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”).

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