Fast food is a part of many people’s busy lives, but new research shows, along with the tastiness, you may be eating industrial chemicals. They’re not on the ingredients list, but phthalates were in almost everything researchers tested.
“To know these new results is very, very alarming. And it’s something I want to do more research on,” said mom Jessica Fluker after she bought her daughter chicken nuggets, one of the many items tested for phthalates and other chemicals used in plastic.
That research might lead her to an October 2021 study by George Washington University which was published in the “Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.”
It concludes the chemicals are a widespread problem.
“All the different food handling and processing equipment that food is processed on so, conveyor belts, industrial tubing, all of those things could be sources of the phthalates and the chemicals,” said Lariah Edwards, Ph.D. a postdoctoral research scientist at George Washington University who worked on the study.
It also found the chemicals typically used to make plastics more flexible in gloves and packaging.
Researchers believe they seep into the food.
Decades of studies show phthalates can cause a whole list of health problems.
“Reproductive problems in men like infertility and decreased sperm count. There’s also problems with neurodevelopmental issues and children,” said Edwards.
Researchers tested 64 items from various restaurants. They found 81% contained phthalates, 86% had a replacement plasticizer in it.
Items with meat had more. Chicken burritos and cheeseburgers had the most. Cheese pizzas had the least chemicals.
“If you want to reduce your exposure you could eat lower on the food chain. Grab a salad. Grab something without meat in it. But we also recognize that’s not an option for a lot of people. You know, fast food is a cheap alternative for a meal and not everybody can, you know, eliminate that from their diet. So, it really goes back to regulation in terms of protecting everybody,” Edwards said.
Certain ethnic groups eat more fast food due to food deserts and other factors.
“Primarily, Black Americans eat more fast food. And there are countless reasons for this linking back to racial discrimination and housing discrimination. So, there are these areas where fast food restaurants are heavier. They’re more dense in certain areas,” Edwards said.
The chemicals are in a lot of products Americans use every day. But phthalates are no longer used in toys and some other items. Because of the potential health hazards, the government banned their use.
But they still allow restaurants to use them in wrappers, containers and gloves.
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