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Toronto, Ont. January 14, 2021 – International fast-food giant McDonald’s announced a new global sustainable packaging commitment, banning the class of toxic chemicals per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from food packaging materials by 2025. The company also disclosed it has already eliminated BPA, BPS, and phthalates in its packaging.
“We are pleased to see McDonald’s act on the PFAS threat and take steps to eliminate these toxic chemicals from their packaging, however, they need to get the phaseout done much sooner,” said Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager at Environmental Defence. “PFAS disproportionately harms Inuit communities in Canada’s Arctic who, according to scientific research, are exposed to higher levels of PFAS than the average Canadian from pollution originating in places like Toronto and Vancouver.
McDonald’s announcement comes less than six months after a study by the Mind the Store Campaign and Toxic Free Future co-released with Environmental Defence where laboratory testing suggested grease-proofing PFAS chemicals in the container of its iconic “Big Mac” and other popular items. The groups launched a call-to-action in the U.S. and Canada urging the restaurant chain to stop using packaging treated with PFAS.
“Because McDonald’s is the largest fast-food chain in the world, this action will help drive PFAS out of food packaging,” said Mike Schade, Director of the Mind the Store Campaign. “Over the last year, tens of thousands of McDonald’s customers have raised their voices calling on the company to act on this. We appreciate McDonald’s taking this important action and heeding our call. However, four years is far too long for their customers and frontline communities to continue to be polluted by these unnecessary forever chemicals. We urge McDonald’s to phase these chemicals out by 2022 and ensure substitutes are safe and reusable. Other major fast-food chains like Burger King and Wendy’s should join them in driving PFAS out of food packaging.”
Scientists have found links between exposures to PFAS and weakening of the immune system and a wide range of health problems. A consortium of scientists recently published a new scientific statement emphasizing the dangerous health impacts of PFAS and other toxic chemicals in food packaging, noting how easily these chemicals migrate out of packaging and into our bodies and the environment.
“The science indicates that exposure to PFAS can damage our immune response, raise cholesterol, and cause other health problems,” said Erika Schreder, Science Director at Toxic-Free Future. “These toxic chemicals last forever in the environment and contaminate drinking water. Especially now, as we fight a pandemic, we need to minimize exposures to toxic chemicals like PFAS that can make us more vulnerable to COVID-19 and its complications.”
The 2020 study, Packaged in Pollution: Are food chains using PFAS in packaging?, also analyzed packaging from five other food chains, including Burger King, where testing suggested some of its packaging was found to contain PFAS. Environmental Defence, the Mind the Store Campaign, and partner groups are calling on the Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International, Burger King’s parent company, to follow the lead of Chipotle, Freshii, and now McDonald’s by committing to remove PFAS from its packaging globally.
While some American state and local governments such as Washington, Maine, New York, and San Francisco are moving to phase out the class of PFAS from food packaging in favour of safer alternatives, no government in Canada has proposed to ban these toxic chemicals. Specifically, Canada’s federal government has taken no steps to ban or regulate PFAS as a class, but has promised to introduce a bill to reform the country’s toxics legislation, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) in the coming months. We hope to see strong amendments in the bill that would address the threat of PFAS and other chemicals of high concern and protect vulnerable populations.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities
About the MIND THE STORE CAMPAIGN (www.mindthestore.org and www.retailerreportcard.org): The national Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives. The campaign publishes the annual retailer report card that benchmarks and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies and implementation programs. The fifth annual report will be released in the first quarter of 2021.
About TOXIC-FREE FUTURE (www.toxicfreefuture.org): Toxic-Free Future advocates for the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through advanced research, grassroots organizing, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow.