According to findings of the Fall 2021 George Washington University study, toxic chemicals were detected in chicken nuggets, burritos and other popular items bought from McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Taco Bell, and Chipotle chain outlets in the United States. Researchers of this first-of-its-kind study found in food samples 10 of 11 potentially harmful chemicals that are linked to a long list of serious health problems, 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. According to the study, phthalates and other plasticizers (non-phthalate plasticizers are used in place of banned or restricted phthalates in food packaging and processing equipment) are widespread in prepared foods available at U.S. fast food chains. That means consumers are getting a side of potentially unhealthy chemicals along with their meal.
The researchers collected 64 fast food items—including hamburgers, fries, chicken nuggets, chicken burritos, cheese pizza—from six popular fast food chains (McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Taco Bell, and Chipotle) in San Antonio, Texas. The team tested food items 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 suggests that people who eat home cooked food have lower levels of these chemicals in their bodies, probably because home cooks do not use food handling gloves industrial plastics.
Story Source provided by George Washington University.