The Senate minority leader also took on meat allergy-causing ticks and cramped airline seats, too. 

By Elisabeth Sherman
Updated July 31, 2017
Fast food packaging investigation
Credit: ugurhan / Getty Images

Senator Chuck Schumer has called on the FDA to launch a formal investigation into the health effects of chemicals used in fast food packaging.

On Sunday, the New York senator released a letter he sent to the head of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, asking that his organization look into phthalates, a type of chemical used to make more plastic more flexible, commonly found in the plastic used to store fast food.

Last year, one study found that urine samples provided by the participants who ate fast food contained said phthalates. Although the effects of this industrial chemical have yet to be verified, some researchers believe that phthalates can hinder development in children and damage reproductive health (these effects have only shown in experiments on laboratory animals so far). These chemicals can leak into fast food not just from the packaging it’s housed in, but also from the vinyl gloves that are worn by workers during the preparation and production of food.

“According to the Journal of Medicine, people – especially kids – who consume a lot of fast food have dangerous levels of phthalates in their system,” Schumer said in his letter.

Right now, the FDA claims that it “monitors” the levels of phthalates—in cosmetics products. The chemical has already been banned in the production of children’s plastic toys and baby bottles, so it stands to reason that the senator (and consumers for that matter) might want to know what it’s still doing in plastic that touches our food.

Fast food isn't the only health issue in Senator Schumer's sights; in a press conference (during which he wielded a plastic and cardboard fast food packaging sculpture to make his point about phthalates), he also addressed meat allergies transmitted through the Lone Star tick, which can leave its victims unable to eat red meat, an issue he believes is being neglected by the National Institutes of Health.

But the impassioned senator was not done yet: Next, Schumer went after airlines.

“They stuff us into airplanes like we’re a bunch of sardines,” he said.

Schumer went on to explain that he once had legislation on the floor of the senate that would require planes to provide cramped passengers with more leg room, but it never became law. Now, he wants to the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate whether or not there are any adverse health effects associated with the narrow seats on airplanes.

Of course, an impassioned speech is not the same as passable legislation. We'll have to wait and see if this increasingly divided congress can come together on any issue, let alone burger wrappings and scrunched seats. Maybe beer is the way to go.