FDA unconcerned about PFAS levels found in processed seafood

The Food and Drug Administration building in the Washington D.C., U.S.A. area.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s first survey of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in processed foods has found levels of the chemicals in certain seafood items. But the agency said it is not concerned about the discovery.

PFAS are found in numerous consumer and industrial products, and are used due to their resistance to grease, oil, water, and heat, the FDA said in a press release. 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.

Of the 167 foods tested in the FDA’s Total Diet Study (TDS), 164 had no detectable levels of PFAS. The three food samples with detectable levels of the chemicals were fish sticks, canned tuna, and protein powder.

Despite the discovery of PFAS in the foods, the FDA said that “based on the best-available current science” the administration “has no scientific evidence that the levels of PFAS found in the samples tested indicate a need to avoid any particular food in the food supply.”

Though the agency found detectable levels of PFAS in certain seafood samples in this survey and in previous surveys, the sample sizes are limited, “and the results cannot be used to draw definitive conclusions about the levels of PFAS in seafood in the general food supply,” the FDA said.

The agency is now conducting a targeted survey of the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S.

“Results from the targeted seafood survey will be used to determine if additional sampling, either targeted or with greater numbers of samples of fish and shellfish, is needed,” the agency said.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said while the results do not suggest there is any need to avoid foods out of concern for PFAS contamination, the administration “will continue our work to better understand PFAS levels in the foods we eat to ensure the U.S. food supply continues to be among the safest in the world.”  

Photo courtesy of JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock


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