Whole Foods to Replace Cancer-Causing Hot Bar Containers

Whole Foods is in hot water over its hot bar containers.
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Whole Foods to Replace Cancer-Causing Hot Bar Containers

Natural food supermarket chain Whole Foods Market says it's pulling salad bar to-go containers after a study found it ranked worst of five major grocery chains for chemicals in the packaging.

The coated paper hot bar containers were used because they were biodegradable, but according to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and Toxic-Free Future, they contained the highest levels of chemicals, including some linked to cancer.

The toxic chemical PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, was found in high levels in five of 17 items tested at Whole Foods. The chemical is often used to treat packaging so it doesn’t leak.

PFAS can make its way into the food in the container and then into the body. It's been linked to compromised immunity, metabolic issues, and certain types of cancer

The packaging, which Whole Foods used as part of its environmental commitment because of its biodegradability, can leach out those chemicals into soil and water, posing threats to wildlife.

“Whole Foods Market introduced compostable containers to reduce our environmental footprint, but given new concerns about the possible presence of PFAS, we have removed all prepared foods and bakery packaging highlighted in the report,” the company said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “We’re actively working with our suppliers to find and scale new compostable packaging options.”

The announcement that the chain is removing the containers earned praise from the groups behind the study, even though Whole Foods has yet to announce what the new packaging will be. “This is a step in the right direction,” said Mike Schade of Safer Chemicals.

PFAS are also commonly found in drinking water, a threat that's led to a number of class action lawsuits over the industrial contaminant.

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