5 On Your Side

Added ingredient in takeout containers can contribute to health problems

Posted February 24, 2020 5:48 p.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2020 5:57 p.m. EST

From pizza to that ready-to-eat roasted chicken, there’s an added ingredient in takeout food that diners should avoid.

A new study found eating out and getting takeout may expose people to more of a group of toxic chemicals called per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

“PFAS are what’s known as forever chemicals. And that’s because they essentially never break down naturally,” says Consumer Reports health Editor Kevin Loria. “So, once they’re made, they just accumulate in the environment. They end up in our water supply, they end up in our food and they end up in us.”

At high levels of exposure, some PFAS chemicals have been linked to serious health problems including an increased risk of cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and growth and learning delays in babies and children.

PFAS chemicals are everywhere – including the surface of some non-stick pans and the lining of some takeout containers and pizza boxes. They keep grease from seeping through.

“So, we don’t know how much of our individual exposure comes from food packaging exactly,” says Loria, adding, “But what this study did show is that people who cooked at home more, had lower levels of PFAS in their blood than people that ate out more frequently.”

A food of concern to consider: microwave popcorn. Those who reported eating it often, had higher levels of certain PFAS chemicals in their blood.

Consumer Reports recommends that when you do bring food home, unwrap food as soon as you can and don’t store or reheat it in the takeout containers.

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