Bonnie Modugno, MS, RDHealth Blog - Nutrition

Another Distorted Reason to Avoid Fast Food

Published on 2011-01-04 by Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD

Today you can read Another Reason to Avoid Fast Food by Dr. Joseph Mercola. The subject is about toxic chemicals–specifically fluorocarbons– in our food, our water and measured in our body. His answer is to avoid fast food. What a distortion of the truth.

Fast food bashing is quite popular and an intensely emotional exercise today. Some people love to hate and revile fast food despite growing sales. I find the hysteria both misguided and disingenuous.


First, a disclaimer. I have consulted for the McDonald’s Owners and Operators of Southern California (MOASC) for over 18 years. Some people jump on that fact as proof of biased alliances. Rather than striking down my credibility, I think the close up view I get of the food at McDonald’s is a unique vantage point. It serves to amplify the distortion of those bent on framing fast food as the culprit of all that is wrong in our food supply. The elitism and lack of critical thinking from fast food critics is appalling.

I have learned much in my work with the McDonald’s entrepreneurs and the employees of their small businesses. Mostly I have learned that the food they serve is much the same as the food most people buy in their local supermarket. For those of us who choose to buy organic, grass fed, sustainably grown, or more locally produced food, those brands don’t quite fit the bill. But those brands feed America.

There is not enough organic, grass fed, unprocessed food to feed the masses today. It is important to keep a personal effort to eat “close to the earth” in perspective. We are cultivating a slow moving revolution. It takes time. Reviling every other food source in the meantime creates harm and distrust. What is everyone else supposed to eat?


I find the incessant harping about fast food just not honest. Dr. Mercola’s article is a case in point. A quick review leads the reader to believe fast food wrapping is the source of the fluorocarbons PFOS and PFOA while conveniently letting the reader assume that other food packaging is somehow not a problem. Not true.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is belatedly tracking and regulating fluorocarbons and other chemical substances. Granted, maybe theses substances should have never been allowed to be manufactured in the first place, but that could be said about most plastics. Imagine everyone trying to turn back the clock to live in that world.

We are way past being able to recreate the past. In the meantime, more accurate data in EPA reports shows overall body burden of these fluorocarbons (the amount of the chemical that accumulates in our body and can be measured in our blood) is decreasing. The voluntary industry efforts to reduce usage are working. So what else can be done? Is cutting out fast food the answer?


I have many questions. On top of the list is, “Which industries use the most fluorocarbons?” and “How do we get the most exposure?”

The Center for Disease Control tells us:

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Fluoropolymer coatings can be used in such varied products as clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces, and the insulation of electrical wire.

Consumer products like Teflon coated pans and breathable synthetic outdoor wear are easy to identify, but fluorocarbons are found everywhere. Data from EPA tells us that PFOA fluorocarbons are employed in hundreds of products in almost all industry segments, including the aerospace, automotive, building/construction, chemical processing, electrical and electronics, semiconductor, and textile industries. They are used in surfactants and as surface treatment chemicals in many products, including fire fighting foams; personal care and cleaning products; and oil, stain, grease, and water repellent coatings on carpet, textiles, leather, and paper. Hmmm.

Nothing in these documents implies that fast food wrappings are a primary source nor is there indication that cutting out fast food would demonstrably make a difference in the total body burden of fluorocarbons.


So why the disproportionate attention to fast food wrappings? What about all food wrapping materials? What about wrappings for take out food from sit down restaurants? Packaging for doggie bags? The majority of wrapped food products in grocery stores? If there is a problem, it would seem to be with with every source of food contact, not just one that is convenient to demonize.

Food wrapping and fluorocarbons are not a fast food issue. The presence of fluorocarbons in our environment is a food issue and much more than a food issue. It is important to appreciate the difference.

NOTE: This writing reflects the personal and professional position of Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD. All comments and opinions expressed in the blog are my own.

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.