There are reasons fast food is known as junk food. It doesn’t just make you fat. Scientists have found traces in food of toxic compounds that are used to make industrial tubing and rubber gloves, and they’re calling for stronger regulations to help keep these harmful chemicals out of the food supply.
These chemicals can cause consumers’ testicles to be smaller, lead to infertility and increase the chances of getting asthma, according to a new study.
Dozens of items from fast food franchises McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut were tested and found to contain toxic compounds known as phthalates, a class of chemicals used to make plastics flexible.
Researchers at George Washington University obtained 64 samples of hamburgers, fries, chicken nuggets, chicken burritos and cheese pizza from six of the most popular fast-food chains.
More than 80 percent of the food items sampled had phthalates, also known as plasticizers, used in hundreds of products such as vinyl flooring, plastic packaging, soaps, and detergents, according to the study.
“We found phthalates and other plasticizers are widespread in prepared foods available in the U.S. fast-food chains,” lead author Lariah Edwards, a postdoctoral scientist at George Washington told Gizmodo. “Finding that means many consumers are getting a side of potentially unhealthy chemicals along their meal. Stronger regulations are needed to help keep these harmful chemicals out of the food supply.”
Phthalates have been linked to thyroid disease, cancer, liver damage, infertility, asthma, and small testicles. They are also linked to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and attention deficit disorders in children.
George Washington University researchers tested samples of the food as well as three pairs of gloves used to handle these foods for eight common phthalates.
The study found out that in general, foods containing meat such as cheeseburgers and chicken burritos had higher levels of chemicals compared to those that did not contain meat, such as French fries and cheese pizza.
Chicken McNuggets, burgers and milkshakes can encounter phthalates and replacement plasticizers anywhere along the food supply chain, from processing and packaging equipment to plastic gloves worn by employees, the researchers said.
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