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Burger King to ban ‘forever chemicals’ from its packaging

The fast food consortium in charge of Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes has announced a global ban on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ from all restaurant packaging by 2025.

Those of us who occasionally indulge in fast food ‘dining’ know what we’re getting into, right?

Did you know though, that its not just the risk attached to a lack of nutrients or high sodium content we need to be concerned with. It’s also the packaging the food comes in.

Last week, a study published by Consumer Reports revealed that several big chains including McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Burger King have dangerous levels of polyfluoroalkyl substances – more commonly known as PFAS and ‘forever chemicals’ – within their food wrappers.

Just like mum used to make…

The dangers of PFA substances

Made by fusing carbon and fluorine together, PFAS intend to make sellable products resistant to heat, water, oil, and corrosion.

In the case of fast food joints, they need their packaging to avoid soaking up vast amounts of grease and sauce, or frankly far less would willingly consume their grub. Especially after it has spent 30 minutes on the back of a Deliveroo bike.

Known to leech from the packaging into the containing food, these chemicals are linked to immune system disorders, low birth weights, and several types of cancers. In an environmental sense, they’re not much better either.

Though many wrappers may resemble biodegradable material like paper or cardboard, which is preferable over plastic, these preservative substances will prevent them from breaking down too.

For both of these reasons, Activists have long opposed the use of PFAS, but this particular report seems to have really ramped up the pressure on the fast food industry to listen.

Following on from the likes of McDonalds and Wendy’s in late 2021, the consortium in charge of Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes (called Restaurant Brands International, or RBI) has now announced plans to phase the dangerous carcinogenics out of its chains by 2025.

Burger King’s 2025 commitment

With the bad wrap forever chemicals are getting (pun intended), and the growing wealth of information about them online, it was but a matter of time before fast food and grocery outlets were forced to change their practices.

Seven US states and 21 food giants have banned PFAS in packaging already and the last six months have started something of a domino effect. As we know, in the age of conscious consumerism failing to appear socially responsible can be terrible for business.

The most recent victory for health groups and activists, in RBI’s announcement, was revealed on March 24:

‘The Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes brands have required that any added perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances be phased out from all approved, guest-facing packaging materials globally by the end of 2025 or sooner,’ stated a spokesperson for the association.

Despite little detail on when this initiative will begin, campaigners appear to be genuinely optimistic about the news. The initial report’s chief of food policy, Brian Ronholm, is satisfied too.

‘We hope today’s announcement will prompt other fast food chains to make a commitment to protect public health and end the use of dangerous PFAS chemicals in their food packaging,’ he says.

Having been outed in the report, hopefully now we’ll see more of these brands cave under public pressure in the weeks ahead.