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Restaurant Chains Lag on Toxic Chemicals

11.14.2018

We need the food industry as a whole to take action to eliminate any and all sources of toxic phthalates in food. But even with rising consumer concern, restaurants and food retailers are failing to take public action to help eliminate these toxic chemicals in their food and supply chains! That's the alarming finding from a new report out today.

Every restaurant graded in the new #MindTheStore report on toxic chemicals—including Starbucks, Subway, Panera, and McDonald’s—scored an F for lack of action on chemicals that can contaminate food—phthalates, PFAS and BPA.

"The food we buy should nourish us, not expose us to toxic chemicals from packaging and processing," warned Mike Belliveau, our executive director and co-author of the report. “Restaurant chains are serving up a recipe for poor health by failing to slash the use of toxic chemicals in food packaging and other food contact materials. Toxic industrial chemicals like phthalates and PFAS don’t belong in the food we eat. Consumers expect a lot more leadership from food retailers in getting toxic chemicals out of the food supply chain.”

The report comes as consumer concern about chemicals in food is growing.

Our lab testing that found industrial chemicals in boxed macaroni and cheese went viral in 2017, and recent studies linking dining out and eating fast food to elevated levels of phthalates in the body generated national coverage. As consumer attention grows, food retailers have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on the issue by taking public action to keep harmful industrial chemicals like phthalates, BPA, and PFAS out of food. 

The third annual Who’s Minding the Store? A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals evaluated and graded the chemical policies and practices of 40 of the largest North American retailers, including grocery and fast food chains, as part of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign. 

Chain restaurants were analyzed for the first time this year and significantly lagged behind other retailers in reducing chemical hazards. These companies have been slow to announce chemicals policies and to publicly address toxic chemicals, such as phthalates and PFAS, in packaging and other food contact materials. Six fast food chains were evaluated representing 10 brands, with all companies earning Fs: Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Panera, Pizza Hut, Popeyes, Taco Bell, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and Subway. 

Other retail sectors with poor performance include dollar stores (average grade of F), department stores (F), beauty shops (D-) and office supply stores (D-).

Four retailers received the highest grades for their work to protect customers from toxic products and packaging, setting the pace for the industry: Apple (A+), Target (A), Walmart (A-) and IKEA (A-). In 2018, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Amazon were ranked “most improved” with all three companies announcing sweeping chemical safety policies over the past two months. 

For a full list of the evaluated companies and their grades, and to contact companies to demand chemical safety improvements, visit RetailerReportCard.com.