Food Wrapping Under Scrutiny

It's an old saying: "You are what you eat."

But whatever you eat, your health may also depend on the wrapping it comes in. That, at least, is what one critic says about a specially treated paper used for a variety of popular snacks and fast foods, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

It's not so much the greasy burgers and buttery microwave popcorn that worries Glenn Evers, a chemical engineer who spent most of his career working for DuPont. It's what they often come wrapped in: paper with a grease-resistant coating made by DuPont.

The coating repels ugly grease. Regular paper just soaks up a drop of oil but the specially coated paper beads it up: no messy wrappers.

The problem, Evers says, is the chemical coating called Zonyl seeps off into the food and into your body — turning into a possible cancer-causing substance called PFOA.

As the government debates how dangerous PFOA may be, Evers has stepped forward to accuse DuPont of concealing how much of it could make its way into your bloodstream. A top DuPont scientist for 22 years, he says he was in a position to know.

Evers says back in 1987, DuPont scientists discovered Zonyl seeped off the paper at triple the rate advised by FDA, but that was kept a company secret he says.

"When I went to my peers and explained to them that we were outside of those guidelines, they said, 'We're working on it, don't worry about it,'" Evers says. "I had full faith that the DuPont company would do something, and over time they didn't."

DuPont already faces millions in EPA fines for allegedly hiding health issues with PFOA for decades. The company is settling the charges but hasn't released the terms.

DuPont wouldn't agree to an interview, but says Evers had little direct involvement in the issues at hand. They also say they've always complied with federal requirements and so had no obligation to notify the FDA of their tests. DuPont says its tests show the coating is safe.

The FDA says at this time, it considers Zonyl paper coating safe when used properly, that Zonyl seeping "should not be equated to PFOA exposure." But both the EPA and FDA are investigating PFOA safety.

As for Evers, DuPont fired him in a downsizing in 2002, and he's since been an expert witness in cases against DuPont. He's suing DuPont himself, saying he was pushed out for raising ethical issues.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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