Burger King indicates it is testing alternatives to toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in food packaging

Media Contacts
Danielle Melgar

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

Health advocates called on Burger King to issue a formal commitment

PIRG Education Fund

CHICAGO — Jose Cils, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, parent company of Burger King, suggested on Wednesday that the fast food giant was testing alternatives to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in its food packaging.

Mr. Cils stated: “Our procurement and brand teams are looking at several alternatives to still achieve the leak barrier that we want without using the PFAS chemical.” He added, “there’s more work to be done in 2021 on this task but results have been positive, and we plan to share more details in the next few months about our packaging roadmap as it relates to PFAS.”

The remarks were made at a shareholder meeting, likely in response to a health advocate investor letter. While his statement is unclear, Burger King customer service staff told customers that called their hotline today something much more clear — that Burger King plans to phase out PFAS in packaging by the end of 2021.

PFAS chemicals have been linked to high cholesterol, kidney and liver problems, low birth weight and cancer. Used in food packaging for their grease-resistant properties, PFAS break down very slowly in our bodies and the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.” 

Last year, two advocacy groups — Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Toxic-Free Future — tested food packaging from Burger King and five other restaurant chains. The health advocates found evidence that all six of the restaurants were using food packaging, including Burger King’s Whopper wrapper, that was likely treated with PFAS. While fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, have committed to phasing out PFAS in their food packaging by 2025 and 2021 respectively, Burger King is the only restaurant featured in the report that has not yet made a formal commitment to address PFAS found in its food packaging.

In response, Danielle Melgar, PIRG Education Fund’s Zero Out Toxics advocate, released the following statement:

“Our lunch shouldn’t be wrapped in toxic chemicals. Virtually all Americans have PFAS in our bodies. Mothers can even pass PFAS to their babies in utero, and a recent study found PFAS in the breast milk of all mothers studied. There’s no time to waste to eliminate PFAS from the products and food packaging we use every day. We urge Burger King to formally commit to phasing out PFAS-treated food packaging. Using PFAS to prevent greasy fingers simply isn’t worth the risk to our health and our children’s long-term well-being.”