Wrap your head around this: The wrappers and boxes used to serve your favorite fast food items are covered in chemicals that could make you sick. Yes, you read that right: Just when we thought fast food couldn’t get any worse, researchers found traces of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) on the paper and cardboard at 27 different fast food chains, including McDonald’s, Panera, Chipotle, and Chick-Fil-A. Exposure to the grease-resistant compound has been linked to high cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, and obesity. How terrifying is that?
To come to this finding, scientists from nonprofit research organizations including the Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Protection Agency joined forces and tested 327 samples of sandwich and pastry wrappers, French fry bags, pizza boxes, and other paper and paperboard from 27 fast food chains and several local restaurants across the country. A staggering 40 percent of these materials tested positive for fluorine. While the presence of fluorine doesn’t automatically indicate the presence of PFC, that’s often the case. In fact, further testing proved that many of the fluorine-coated materials did, in fact, also carry PFCs. Some samples even had traces of the outlawed chemical, PFOA (which used to be used to make Teflon), which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Obviously, the easiest way to avoid these scary chemicals is to cut out fast food entirely. But sometimes when a hankering for a burger and fries hits, the only solution is to hit the drive-thru. We totally get it. That said, your best defense is to simply stay away from the chains that have the highest percentage of items that tested positive for fluorine. At Jimmy John’s, Taco Time, and Quiznos, 100 percent of the wrapping and boxes tested positive for fluorine; 80 percent of the packaging from Chick-fil-A was found to contain fluorine; and at Starbucks, 76 percent of items contained traces of the dangerous chemical. Restaurants with the lowest incidences of fluorine include: Carl's Jr, Checkers, Culver's, Five Guys, Round Table Pizza, Arby's, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, and McDonald's. That said, you may want to consider those your new favorite spots.