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Schumer urges FDA to probe fast-food packaging health effects

Sen. Chuck Schumer, accompanied by Congressional Democrats, speaks

Sen. Chuck Schumer, accompanied by Congressional Democrats, speaks in Berryville, Va., Monday, July 24, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Cliff Owen

Fast-food wrappers, cups and cartons made with phthalates — a chemical banned in other household products — should be further investigated for their health effects on consumers, said Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader, issued a letter to the head of the Food and Drug Administration on Sunday calling on the agency to launch a study into the consequences of using phthalates in food packaging. In his letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Schumer notes that federal regulators have already banned six forms of the chemical, which is used to make products more “flexible and harder to break,” from being used in “children’s toys and other child care products, like those designed to facilitate sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething.”

“To think that we have all this data on phthalate chemicals from doctors, scientists, health experts and other industries just sitting around, frozen like a beef patty and begging for the FDA to take it to the next appropriate level of scrutiny is worrisome for the consumer,” Schumer said in a statement. “The studies are clear: the link between these chemicals does have an impact on the body, and not a very good one. That is why I am asking the FDA to launch a formal investigation into the fast food products that wrap our burgers or subs, hold our drinks and contain our leftovers.”

Schumer, in his letter to the FDA, cited studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and others that have linked phthalates to thyroid and insulin issues in youth. Several studies have also shown that Americans who frequently consume fast food have higher levels of the substance in their bodies than those who rarely eat fast food.

A 2013 study by New York University researchers found a link between “high levels of phthalates and increased insulin resistance in young adolescents,” Schumer said, adding that a 2014 JAMA study found pregnant women with a high level of phthalates detected in their urine were at greater risk of giving birth prematurely.”

Data collected by the CDC between 2003 and 2010 found that those who consumed a large amount of fast food in a 24-hour period had higher levels of two types of phthalates than those who consumed less fast food in the same period.

“We must do all we can to avoid exposing our families and children to potentially harmful chemicals,” Schumer said in his letter to Gottlieb.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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