Industrial Chemicals – Linked to a Long List of Serious Health Problems – Detected in US Fast Foods

Fast Food Meal

Phthalates and other plasticizers found in cheeseburgers, chicken burritos, and other popular foods purchased at fast-food restaurants.

Chicken nuggets, burritos, and other popular items consumers buy from fast food outlets in the United States contain chemicals that are linked to a long list of serious health problems, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

Researchers at the George Washington University and their colleagues bought fast foods from popular outlets and found 10 of 11 potentially harmful chemicals in the samples, including phthalates, a group of chemicals that are used to make plastics soft and are known to disrupt the endocrine system. The research team also found other plasticizers, chemicals that are emerging as replacements to phthalates.

“We found phthalates and other plasticizers are widespread in prepared foods available at U.S. fast food chains, a finding that means many consumers are getting a side of potentially unhealthy chemicals along with their meal,” Lariah Edwards, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scientist at GW, said. “Stronger regulations are needed to help keep these harmful chemicals out of the food supply.”

Previously, a GW research team led by Ami Zota, a professor of environmental and occupational health, looked at fast food consumption in a national survey and found people who reported eating more fast foods had higher levels of phthalates. No one has looked at the link between fast food and non-phthalate plasticizers, which are used in place of banned or restricted phthalates in food packaging and processing equipment.

In this study, Edwards, Zota and their colleagues purchased 64 fast food items from different restaurants and asked for three pairs of unused food handling gloves. The team tested food items and the gloves for 11 kinds of phthalates and plasticizers, finding that:

  • 81% of the food samples studied contained a phthalate called DnBP and 70% contained DEHP. Both these chemicals have been linked in numerous studies to fertility and reproductive problems in humans. These phthalates can also increase risk for learning, attention, and behavioral disorders in childhood.
  • 86% of the foods contained the replacement plasticizer known as DEHT, a chemical that needs further study to determine its impact on human health.
  • Foods containing meats, such as cheeseburgers and chicken burritos, had higher levels of the chemicals studied.
  • Chicken burritos and cheeseburgers had the highest levels of DEHT. The researchers noted that food handling gloves collected from the same restaurants also contained this chemical.
  • Cheese pizzas had the lowest levels of most chemicals tested.

Phthalates and replacement plasticizers are chemicals used to make plastics soft and can migrate out of plastics into the food, which is ingested. Some sources of plastics include food handling gloves, industrial tubing, food conveyor belts and the outer packaging used to wrap fast food meals available in restaurants.

Previous research by Zota’s team suggests that people who eat food cooked at home have lower levels of these chemicals in their bodies, probably because home cooks do not use food handling gloves or plastic packaging. To avoid these industrial chemicals, consumers can switch to mostly home cooked meals, which are often healthier than fast food, Edwards said.

Both Edwards and Zota say their study suggests the need for greater scrutiny and regulation of chemicals used to make food. They point out that replacement plasticizers are increasingly used to replace banned or restricted phthalates yet the studies needed to show that they are safe have yet to be done.

The study also raises the concern that certain racial/minority groups may be disproportionately affected by these chemicals.

“Disadvantaged neighborhoods often have plenty of fast food outlets, but limited access to healthier foods like fruits and vegetables,” Zota said. “Additional research needs to be done to find out whether people living in such food deserts are at higher risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals.”

Reference: “Phthalate and Novel Plasticizer Concentrations in Food Items from U.S. Fast Food Chains: A Preliminary Analysis” by Lariah Edwards, Nathan L. McCray, Brianna N. VanNoy, Alice Yau, Ruth J. Geller, Gary Adamkiewicz and Ami R. Zota, 27 October 2021, Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41370-021-00392-8

This research was supported by the Passport Foundation, Forsythia Foundation and Marisla Foundation.

Read a Fact Sheet (PDF) of the study.

23 Comments on "Industrial Chemicals – Linked to a Long List of Serious Health Problems – Detected in US Fast Foods"

  1. This is all BULLSH*T & anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows it. These lies are being thrown around by the Fascist Anti fast food police who will constantly lie thru their false teeth any lie needed to get Americans to give up fast food & everything that goes into the meals even if eaten separately. They are the dirt bags who support blindly the WHO,CDC, Dr. Fauci et al.Anyone who thinks Zuckerberg & Twitter are free speech rapist, they’ve got nothing on Big Pharmaceutical & the b ilk associated with them. Until your compliant with them you’re too free in your thinking & speech.

    • LOL… Nice rant. But unadulterated RHETORIC. But GO AHEAD, EAT UP. That’s your choice. Swallow it whole, packaging and all. Add salt to taste, 1/2 cup of Olestra™. Oughta “slide” down real easy. You are what you eat. Just don’t ask for details about where “soy isolate” comes from. Might make you sick to your stomach. See you in the cancer ward! Pay ’em now. Pay ’em later.

  2. Unfortunately, we’ll all die, whether we eat plastic or not, so why bother worrying about it? Enjoy your food and die anyway!

    • Fast food expert | November 15, 2021 at 8:33 am | Reply

      Pretty much. Ha!!! If it’s not fast food it’s something else…or a bus. I mean it’s all relative hahahaha!

  3. Fast food = fast grave.

  4. Those who claimed that these findings are not real, should listen more to science. They claim is anti-capitalist propaganda or so. You are imbeciles, who believe anything that the capitalist system tell you to believe. One day you hopefully will wake up from this illusion that the fed you every day since long time.

  5. Wow stopping what we eat and investigating unwanted chemicals in good is important I don’t see why something more harmful to EVERYONE isn’t given importance of a headline like cigarettes and alcohol consumption

  6. Nothing is safe to eat. Soil contains minerals and metals which is absorbed into plants and the animals that eat them. The same reasoning used to say tobacco is bad because of the chemicals in them. Uranium, chromium, aluminum, … So smoke em if you got em. Grow your own vegetables and fruit but make sure the water is clean. You do not want listeria from stale water and that goes double for your ac unit

    • Sensible woman | November 15, 2021 at 8:38 am | Reply

      I was going bat crap crazy, thinking about the same “dangers”. It’s funny because someone can TELL you, you need to stop doing something (like eating white rice), meanwhile they are vaping.

  7. Should tax fastfood more like cigarettes since they both slowly kill you.

    • Fatty fast food vegetarian | November 15, 2021 at 8:41 am | Reply

      Yeah Keets, but then that’s bad for people that are in food deserts, or someone that can only afford a hamburger from McDonald’s. Sidethought….you should see the absolute garbage that is sometimes given to people in need at Food banks. Maaan it’s all jacked up, I throw my hands up. I’m going to finish eating these hot delicious fries…but I swear this is the LAST time!!!

  8. Notsurprisedatall | November 15, 2021 at 6:49 am | Reply

    Willing to bet my life savings fast food companies know they are overcharging and poisoning poorer neighborhoods

    • Yes, absolutely. Damn you got life savings? Go ‘head with your bad self! High five!
      These corner stores in bad areas, sell junk like Ramen noodles for a marked up price.

  9. What the media is doing is setting up other reasons on why people are suddenly having health issues after inoculation because it surely couldn’t be vaccine injury. It’s got to be the cannabis you smoked in college or all the fast food you eat, etc etc etc …..

  10. It’s not that serious, to elicit such a mantrum. Then throw in Fauci and Fred Flintstone. It is,what it is. We will all continue to eat fast food sometimes. However…..people that are homeless and living in shelters, are grateful just for getting food. They don’t have the “luxury” of checking of Phlates, (or however you spell that). There’s too much going on now in America period, I’m just going to pretend I didn’t read that…….for now.

  11. Michelle Lovato | November 15, 2021 at 9:16 am | Reply

    I truly believe fast food is toxic not only to our bodies . Also our planet. Food for thought. You are what you eat. Nothing like a home cooked meal.How do you feel after you consume fast food.Nautral and Authentic is the only way to go.

  12. Fast food = fast death .
    Its simple

  13. No surprise here. Of course fast food is full of non-desirable chemicals. Unfortunately big corporations will continue to poison us all. But, no one forces us to select these convenient establishments.

  14. Well.. i guess we now know why the U.S. is the dumbest country on the planet 😂

  15. It’s not just in fast food. It’s in everything that is mass produced everywhere around the world. Corporations don’t care about the 7 billion cock roaches that buy their product. They know there will always be 7 billion or more cock roaches feeding off of the poison they sale to the world. So this article doesn’t even matter. You think that air you’re breathing in is safe? Or that “organic” food you’re eating is safe?

  16. Disgusting we are surrounded by plastics that kill in our water,food,soil,body and air. Thanks to the invention of petroleum pharmaceuticals and plastics in everything and everywhere we know have diseases that kill the modern man in the last 120 years (industrial revolution). Thanks Elite evil murders.

  17. Read the book Estrogeneration. It will scare the pants off of you. It is all about food and whats in it.

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