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McDonald's Is Removing This Harmful Chemical From Its Products

After a shocking study revealed high levels of PFAS in the chain's packaging, McDonald's is taking action.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

McDonald's is taking a new step toward serving a healthier product, but this isn't about the sodium or trans fats in the food. The fast-food chain announced they are getting rid of the toxic PFAS chemicals currently found in the packaging of the widely popular Big Mac.

The changes come after a study, conducted by environmental advocacy groups Toxic-Free Future and Mind the Store, found high levels of the toxin in food wrappers and containers used at some of the country's biggest fast-food chains like McDonald's and Burger King. The findings prompted a nationwide call to action from citizens and organizations demanding McDonald's to stop using the chemicals in its packaging. (Related: McDonald's Is Making These 8 Major Upgrades.)

"We're proud to take another step in our product stewardship journey with our commitment to remove all added fluorinated compounds from our guest packaging materials globally by 2025," the company said in its announcement.

The company also disclosed that it has already eliminated other chemicals like BPA, BPS, and phthalates in its packaging.

PFAS are a class of over 5,000 man-made substances, which have been shown to have a harmful impact on human health, the environment, and our drinking water. While they are still poorly regulated and can be found in everyday items like rain jackets, rugs, and makeup, one senior CDC official has called the presence and concentration of PFAS in U.S. drinking water "one of the most seminal public health challenges for the next decades."

"Because McDonald's is the largest fast-food chain in the world, this action will help drive PFAS out of food packaging," said Mind the Store campaign director Mike Schade. "Over the last year, tens of thousands of McDonald's customers have raised their voices calling on the company to act on this. We appreciate McDonald's taking this important action and heeding our call."

However, Schade says the campaign disagrees with McDonald's on one thing: the timeline of implementation, which is projected to be 2025. "Four years is far too long for their customers and frontline communities to continue to be polluted by these unnecessary forever chemicals," he says. "We urge McDonald's to phase these chemicals out by 2022 and ensure substitutes are safe and reusable. Other major fast-food chains like Burger King and Wendy's should join them in driving PFAS out of food packaging."

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Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more