At Least 2 Fast Food Chains Are Being Sued Over 'Forever Chemicals' Report

While health risks associated with consuming fast food, particularly obesity, have been openly acknowledged for years, a less obvious component involving fast food consumption is now being blamed for a host of health issues — the packaging.

In order to serve up those freshly made fries, and burgers with ingredients busting out of their buns, fast food chains utilize packaging that is created to be grease-resistant. Treated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the containers do their job to prevent a sloppy mess in your car, but they could be wreaking havoc in your body.

Created in the 1940s, PFAS (also known as "forever chemicals" for their tendency to remain in the body extensively, according to EWG) were initially used to form non-stick surfaces (via ITRC). Since then, they've been utilized to make stain and water repellents, cosmetics, and water-repellent clothes. However, as early as 1998, the EPA was allegedly aware of the potential adverse effects of PFAS, including liver, kidney, and spleen issues, reproductive problems, and cancer (via EWG). The EPA also notes that PFAS could be responsible for developmental effects or delays in children, impaired immune response, and hormonal interference.

According to Hogan Lovells, some states have already moved to ban PFAS from food packaging by as early as December of 2022. However, a study published in March by Consumer Reports that details the level of PFAS in several fast food chains' packaging has triggered alarm — and several lawsuits.

Fast food PFAS lawsuit details

While some brands had already pledged to stop using packaging treated with PFAS, the promise to protect consumers didn't come quickly enough. After the Consumer Reports study was published, at least three class-action lawsuits were filed — two against McDonald's and one against Burger King (via Nation's Restaurant News). In addition to the Consumer Reports study, another from 2020 by Toxic-Free Future is also being cited in the lawsuit.

According to Top Class Actions, the case against Burger King has been brought by Azman Hussain, who contends that Burger King has made fraudulent claims regarding their products' safety which is not in alignment with the known risks of using PFAS in packaging. According to Nation's Restaurant News, Hussain isn't the only plaintiff. Larry Clark, similarly, alleges that McDonald's has not been forthright with consumers by also espousing the safety of their food while not disclosing the packaging's PFAS. Ken McDowell, another plaintiff who filed a case against McDonald's, is also alleging fraud.

It is unclear if more lawsuits will emerge on the heels of the Consumer Reports' study or if any of these three suits will be successful in producing damages for the plaintiffs.