PFA’s in compostable carry out containers

The internet is blowing up about Chipotle and their bowls.  Guess they are an easy target since they have had some mis-steps in the last few years.  However, I feel like they deserve a little pass on this one.

Let me explain.  I did a little research and read the article by Joe Fassler.  He is The New Food Economy’s features editor. He was the one that initiated Notre Dame Chemist Graham Peaslee to test the containers of 14 different locations from 8 different restaurants in NY city.   What they found was that in all of the different samples there was high levels of Florine.  The presence of Florine indicates the bowls were treated with PFA’s.  PFA’s can be linked to a long list of health problems including cancer.

The article that Mr Fassler wrote is long and in excellent detail, so I am not going to rehash his article in my words.  You can read it here:

However, here are a few takeaways I learned;

  • Of the 8 different locations Chipotle was the second highest offender of levels of Florine. Dig had the highest levels.  Sweet Green was the lowest.  Odd that Chipotle and Sweet Green were called out specifically.
  • Although more testing and information about the bowls would need to be obtained, based on the Florine levels the bowls are most likely within FDA guidelines for PFA’s.
  • PFA’s can be transferred from one surface to another.
  • PFA’s allow the plant-based bowls to be used with greasy, wet and hot foods.
  • PFA’s are not biodegradable and will live on forever.
  • All the bowls were certified as “compostable” by certifying company BPI.
  • BPI is changing standards and of Jan 1, 2020. Any bowls treated with PFA’s will no longer pass certification as compostable.
  • When bowls are composted the compost can then be affected. Transferring the PFA’s to food supply during planting and growing.
  • When bowls are thrown in the landfill the PFA’s can leach into water and even after water treatment the PFA’s could be found in our drinking water.
  • PFA’s can be found in many other non-food sources especially fire-resistant carpeting.

My biggest concern is not with the restaurants using theses bowls but with the manufacturers that make them.  They knew they were adding PFA’s, they new that they are not biodegradable.  How was it that they were certified compostable and marketed as such?  There is no other alternative to the clam shells or Styrofoam on the market at this time.  What is a carry out to do when the public and now some cities demand not using Styrofoam ?