McDonald’s commits to eliminating toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in food packaging globally

Media Contacts
Danielle Melgar

Former Food & Agriculture, Advocate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Health advocates call for restaurant industry to follow McDonald’s lead

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

CHICAGO — McDonald’s announced Wednesday a new global commitment to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging used in its restaurants by 2025. PFAS are chemicals used in some food packaging to make it grease-resistant. They have been linked to high cholesterol, kidney and liver problems, low birth weight and cancer. Recent research has also found a potential link between PFAS exposure and more severe COVID-19 symptoms, as well as reduced vaccine effectiveness. 

PFAS break down very slowly in our bodies and the environment, so they are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals.” When PFAS are used in food packaging, the chemicals can leach from the packaging into the food, which we eat. When we throw away the packaging, the chemicals can get into our soil and drinking water.

Last year, two advocacy groups, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Toxic-Free Future, tested food packaging from three fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, and three health food chains. They found evidence that packaging from all six businesses was likely treated with PFAS. All three of the health food chains committed to phase out PFAS-treated food packaging. McDonald’s is the first of the fast food restaurants in the report to take action.

In response to McDonald’s announcement, Danielle Melgar, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Zero Out Toxics advocate, released the following statement:

“McDonald’s commitment is common sense. Our lunch shouldn’t be wrapped in toxic chemicals. When virtually all Americans have PFAS in our bodies and expectant mothers can even pass PFAS to their babies, there’s no time to waste in eliminating PFAS wherever possible. We applaud McDonald’s for its industry leadership in committing to phase out PFAS-treated food packaging globally. Now, other restaurants should follow suit. Continuing to use PFAS to prevent greasy fingers simply isn’t worth the risk to our health and the health of our children.”