Ever see that oh-so-familiar box of fries at McDonald's and start dreaming of some fast-food goodness? You soon may have a very different reaction if some recent class-action lawsuits have anything to do with it.
After Consumer Reports found potentially toxic levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in some of the packaging at chains such as Arby's, Cava, Chick-fil-A, Nathan's, Sweetgreen and others, class-action lawsuits have been filed against two of the highest-profile restaurants on the list: McDonald's and Burger King.
Two lawsuits named McDonald's Corp. and one targets Burger King. The two fast-food icons aren't the only brands with a reason to worry, either. The Consumer Reports findings, tests conducted by Toxic-Free Future, and a crackdown on PFAS in consumer products could eventually lead to more lawsuits.
PFAS are considered "forever chemicals" because they take a very long time to break down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they're associated with illnesses and health problems including cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, asthma, and thyroid disease.
Many chains say they have already begun phasing out packaging that includes PFAS — but the switch could take time. Both McDonald's and Burger King have pledged to dump PFAS by 2025 or sooner.
Ironically, the public promise of giving consumers a healthier fast-food experience is fueling some of the lawsuits. The class-action lawsuit filed against Burger King calls the chain’s promotion of “real ingredients” with “no secrets” and sustainable packaging deceptive.
If you're leery of heading to a fast-food joint because of PFAS, don't forget to look around your house, too. The chemicals have been used in nonstick cookware and cosmetics, as flame retardants, and for waterproofing clothing, among other applications.