REGULARLY eating takeaways or fast food may increase your risk of infertility and cancer – due to the packaging, experts warn.
Researchers say that burger wrappers and pizza boxes contain toxic chemicals, known as PFAS, which can enter the body.
The US team found that those who frequently ordered-in had more PFAS in their blood than those who cooked at home, according to the findings published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
An earlier study by the same group found that PFAS are commonly used for packaging in the fast food industry as they are grease-proof and durable.
But the man-made substances have been linked to cancer, infertility, thyroid disease and immune suppression.
Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute in Massachusetts analysed data from 10,106 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
They were asked about their diet, recalling what they ate over four different time scales in the previous 24 hours, seven days, 30 days, and 12 months.
The participants also provided blood samples that had been analysed for a number of different PFAS chemicals.
Experts found that people who ate more meals at home had significantly lower levels in their bodies.
The vast majority of these meals consisted of food purchased at a grocery store.
In contrast, people who consumed more takeaways or ate more frequently at restaurants – including pizza places – tended to have higher levels of PFAS in their bodies.
The team also found that people who consumed more microwave popcorn had significantly higher levels of PFAS, most likely the result of the chemicals leaching out of the popcorn bags.
Four PFAS chemicals that were detected in the participants' blood samples and that were associated with eating more popcorn have previously been detected in microwave popcorn bags, the researchers note.
Lead author Dr Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at Silent Spring, said: "This is the first study to observe a link between different sources of food and PFAs exposures in the US population.
"Our results suggest migration of PFAs chemicals from food packaging into food can be an important source of exposure to these chemicals."
The general conclusion here is the less contact your food has with food packaging, the lower your exposures to PFAs and other harmful chemicals
Staff scientist Kathryn Rodgers, who co-authored the research, said it should help customers avoid certain foods.
She added: "The general conclusion here is the less contact your food has with food packaging, the lower your exposures to PFAs and other harmful chemicals.
"These latest findings will hopefully help consumers avoid these exposures and spur manufacturers to develop safer food packaging materials."
A limitation of the study is that the data was collected between 2003 and 2014 when manufacturers used long-chain PFAS.
These types of chemicals have since been replaced with newer varieties.
The team said that although the study did not directly analyse food packaging or the food itself for PFAS, the findings are consistent with previous research.
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