FDA study finds “forever chemicals” in grocery-store seafood

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released the results of a wide-scale study investigating the presence of so-called “forever chemicals” in U.S. supermarket food.

The FDA found levels of per- and polyfluoroalykyl (PFAs) and other fluorocarbon resins – which are grease-proofing agents used in non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags and numerous other foodservice and food retail applications in many foods, including seafood – in market basket sampling done at grocery stores and supermarkets in three undisclosed U.S. cities in the mid-Atlantic region.

The FDA found PFAs at levels ranging from 134 parts per trillion to 865 parts per trillion in tilapia, cod, salmon, shrimp, and catfish, as well as numerous meat products, according to an FDA presentation at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in late May, the Associated Press reported.

FDA spokesperson Tara Rabin told the AP that her agency rated PFAs as “not likely to be a human health concern,” but the levels of chemical contamination found in the seafood tested were more than double the FDA’s recommended 70-parts-per-trillion limit for safe drinking water.

PFAs have been nicknamed "forever chemicals" because they take thousands of years to degrade and because they can accumulate in people's bodies. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry lists increased cancer risks; disturbances to the immune system; higher rates of thyroid disease and liver problems, interference with a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; and disruptions to the normal growth, learning, and behavior of infants and children as some of the effects of exposure to PFAs.

“Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to mixtures of PFAs,” the ATSDR said in a statement on its website. “More research will help scientists fully understand how PFAs affect human health.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency is considering mandatory limits on PFAs in food, but is impatient with the rate at which the federal agency is moving to regulate the chemicals. Several states have moved to set their own limits for PFAs in groundwater and drinking water.


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