US FDA: PFAS chemical contaminant levels in fish “not a concern”

The FDA found detectable levels of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a cod sample.

The levels of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in fish do not represent a human health concern, according to a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration report.

PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally, were created as a solution to waterproof and grease-proof surfaces. They are still in use in a number of consumer goods and have been found to be contaminating water supplies across the United States. Medical studies have linked PFAS build-up in humans to cancer, liver and kidney harm, damage to human reproductive and immune systems, and other diseases, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

However, the FDA’s most recent analysis of 94 samples of a variety of food products found only one seafood sample to have detectable levels of PFAS. One cod sample showed detectable levels of two perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

“The FDA has determined that the PFAS levels found in the cod sample do not present a human health concern,” the agency said in a press release.

Next, the agency will conduct a more targeted survey of the most-commonly consumed seafood in the U.S., including cod and tilapia.

“The results from this survey will be used to determine if additional sampling, with greater numbers of samples of seafood, is needed,” FDA said.

The foods tested in the FDA’s recent analysis represent a range of products that are in the general food supply and were chosen to be representative of the major components of the average U.S. diet, based on national food consumption survey data, according to the agency.

The FDA tested the samples as part of our broader effort to better understand the occurrence of PFAS in foods and determine if targeted sampling assignments are necessary to better understand occurrence in certain food categories. The study is intended to help inform the overall agency’s approach to future surveillance efforts, FDA said.

“What is important to note is that FDA has determined that the traces of PFAS that have been found [in seafood] are not at levels of concern for human health,” National Fisheries Institute Director of Communications Melaina Lewis told SeafoodSource.

Since the FDA began testing foods from the general food supply for PFAS in 2019, only four samples out of the nearly 300 tested have had detectable levels of PFAS and none have been determined to be at levels of concern for human health, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock noted.

“The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, and the available scientific evidence does not support avoiding particular foods because of concerns regarding PFAS exposure,” Woodcock said.

Photo courtesy of KarepaStock/Shutterstock


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