New report finds dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ in food packaging

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Paper and cardboard packaging often gives the impression of healthier food options. but Consumer Reports research found that some of the highest levels of dangerous chemicals can be found in the most unusual suspects. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been produced and widely used for decades, says Consumer Reports science writer Kevin Loria. First discovered in the late 1930s, PFAS are resistant to heat, water, grease, corrosion, and friction which allows them to be used in various ways including nonstick pans, clothing, and food packaging.

Loria explains the chemicals don’t break down naturally, which has led to their moniker — “forever chemicals.” Their continued production ends up in air, water, and soil, causing them to be linked to a number of health concerns. Increased diagnosis of certain cancers, kidney and liver damage, high cholesterol, decreased fertility, development effects in children, increased blood pressure during pregnancy, and a reduced immune system all have been associated with exposure to PFAS.

Consumer Reports tested 118 different products ranging from salad bowls to burger wrappers, and found some of the highest levels of PFAS in molded fiber bowls that are often associated with healthier food options. Loria says that even recycled paper products can potentially be contaminated with PFAS in the ink for printing, or lubrications in the machines manufacturing products.