Fast casual dining restaurants including Chipotle, Sweetgreen and Dig Inn have been in the spotlight recently over concerns that the “eco-friendly” packaging used to house these restaurants food offerings, think Chipotle’s burrito bowl for example, may actually contain harmful chemicals in the form of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (“PFAS”). PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been in wide use in an array of consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. PFASs are often referred to as “forever chemicals,” because they contain carbon-fluorine bonds that don’t break down easily.
PFAS are being investigated regarding potential links to cancer, obesity, reproductive health problems, immunotoxicity and other health problems. There is evidence [https://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/research-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas] that continued exposure to certain PFAS above specific levels may lead to adverse health effects. Because of their widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS, but dining out offers a novel path for direct exposure to these chemicals.
PFASs are added to fiber bowels like those you find at Chipotle to make those containers water and grease proof. Because PFAS don’t break down, they remain in our bloodstreams, and there is research that shows that PFAS chemicals migrate from the bowl into the food so that you are likely ingesting these chemicals. Chipotle contends its fiber bowls are safe, but there are nearly 5,000 chemicals in the PFAS group and only a handful have been studied for toxicity. That has scientists concerned over the potential impact to the human body over time.
Ironically, you may be better off with the carbs from the burrito tortilla over the low-carb bowl option. But it might not be a bad idea to bring your own container next time you opt for a restaurant that uses fiber bowls.