Avoiding Exposures “To-Go”: Chemicals in our Food Packaging

Article Author: Merin Thomas, Public Health Major, Class of 2026, POB Science Translator 

While many of us focus on the nutrition facts printed on the packaging that holds our food, we rarely consider the chemicals in the packaging that might be contaminating the food. This information is highlighted by “The FoodPrint of Food Packaging”. This extensive report sheds light on harmful chemicals commonly found in food packaging, their potential impact on our well-being, and the steps you can take to safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones. 

Among the chemicals found in many different types of food packaging, three major classes of concern stand out: bisphenols (including BPA and BPB), phthalates, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). These chemicals are notorious for their endocrine-disrupting properties, which means they interfere with the hormones that regulate vital bodily functions with a cascade of impacts. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a plastic component that leaches from containers and linings into the food they hold. Though consumer demand has led to the phasing out of BPA from many products, it still can be found lining metal food packaging like cans. Even when labeled as “BPA-free,” these cans might contain equally harmful analog substitutes – chemicals with only slight compositional changes – like Bisphenol S or Bisphenol F. To limit exposures, you can opt for a safer option, such as glass, when available. 

Phthalates, known as plasticizers, are commonly used in plastic food containers and wraps. These chemicals enhance the flexibility of plastics, making them more durable. Particularly when exposed to heat, such as in the microwave, phthalates can migrate into food, particularly in high-fat items like meat and dairy. While the full breadth of health concerns of phthalates in humans are still being studied, animal research has linked them to hormone disruption and reproductive health issues. To reduce exposure, you should choose glass and avoid heating plastic in the microwave, especially when preparing food for your family.

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS), often referred to as “forever chemicals,” are used in fiber-based food packaging to make them resistant to water and oil. PFAS have been associated with a range of health problems, including delayed learning, endocrine disruption, increased cholesterol levels, immune system disruption, and an elevated risk of cancer. These chemicals persist in the environment and accumulate in our bodies over time. To minimize exposure to PFAS, consumers can look for PFAS-free food service products and consider alternatives like bamboo or uncoated paper packaging. 

At Protect Our Breasts, we believe that knowledge is power and are committed to raising awareness about the concerning chemicals that can impact our health. It is our collective responsibility to protect our health and the health of future generations. It is essential that we, as informed consumers, advocate for comprehensive and uniform standards for food packaging that prioritize human health and the environment by making safer choices. Food packaging, with its hidden dangers in the form of harmful chemicals, is a critical area that deserves our attention. By advocating for safer packaging practices, and supporting brands that prioritize health, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the concealed risks in our food containers. Together, we can create a safer and healthier future for all. 


GRACE Communications Foundation. (2023, June 6). The Foodprint of Food Packaging. FoodPrint. https://foodprint.org/reports/the-foodprint-of-food-packaging/ 

Aided by ChatGPT, human-checked and edited content for accuracy and clarity.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites. POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.

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