Wendy's Promises to Ditch Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Packaging by End of Year
These 'forever chemicals' impart grease resistance, but also resist degradation.
Wendy's near Union Square, New York City, in August 2020.
Getty Images / Alexi Rosenfeld
Fast-food chain Wendy's has announced it will get rid of toxic PFAS chemicals in its packaging by the end of this year. As stated in its annual report, "We anticipate full elimination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly called PFAS, from consumer-facing packaging in the US and Canada by the end of 2021."1
Mike Schade, campaign director for Mind the Store, stated: "Wendy’s is taking meaningful action at a pace we’re thrilled to see. This announcement proves that it is feasible for large companies to phase out PFAS in food packaging by the end of this year."
PFAS are typically used to make food packaging, clothing, furniture, sporting gear, and other items resistant to stains, grease, and water. And while they do the job well, they come at a cost to human health. The chemicals do not break down and can make their way back to people through the soil, water, and air. They've been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, liver and kidney toxicity, and damage to immune and reproductive systems.
Toxic-Free Future reported that "nearly every U.S. resident has PFAS in his or her body, with biomonitoring studies finding PFAS in blood, breast milk, umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, placenta, and other tissues."3 PFAS have been detected in drinking water all across the United States, in both fresh and saltwater.
When it comes to fast food packaging specifically, PFAS are added to stop hot grease from dripping through the paper. But these hot, usually fatty foods absorb the chemicals, and when they're eaten, so are the chemicals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) cited a 2008 FDA study that found "fluorochemical paper additives do migrate to food during actual package use," and the presence of oil and grease "can significantly enhance migration of a fluorochemical from paper."4