Whole Foods Market has removed coated paper packaging with cancer-linked chemicals from its stores in Canada and the U.S.
The move by the Amazon-owned organic grocery chain follows the release of a study from Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families that found nearly two-thirds of paper takeout containers, like those used at self-serve salad and hot bars, contained elevated levels of PFAS — a class of industrial chemicals.
Researchers tested 78 food packaging samples from five grocery stores, including Whole Foods Market, finding that four out of the five analyzed takeout containers from the Austin, Texas-based food retailer were likely treated with a type of PFAS. By contrast, 13% (10 out of 78 samples) of all food packaging samples and 63% (five out of eight) of takeout containers were likely treated with the chemicals. Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Kroger and Trader Joe’s were also part of the study.
“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,” Whole Foods said in an email statement when contacted by Canadian Grocer‘s sister publication, Progressive Grocer. “We’re actively working with our suppliers to find and scale new compostable packaging options.”
PFAS are used to repel grease, water and stains in consumer products, as well as being an ingredient in some firefighting foams. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the chemicals are linked to liver damage and cancer, are harmful to the immune system and can accumulate in humans and the environment.
“Consumers use these containers as a convenience to bring home food for their families,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “They don’t expect harmful chemicals to be part of their dinner. The good news is that PFAS-free takeout containers are also available, so grocery retailers can switch to safer packaging. Grocery chains must mind the store to safeguard our health.”
A version of this story appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.