On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provided an update on its ongoing sampling and testing efforts designed to better understand the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the food supply. The foods tested in the FDA’s recent analysis were collected from the Total Diet Study (TDS), which monitors levels of nutrients and contaminants in foods consumed in the U.S.
The newly-posted results from the agency’s most recent analysis of 94 samples of a variety of food products collected in FY2020 from the TDS found only one sample of cod to have detectable levels of two types of PFAS – 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 FDA’s work in this space is critically important to advance science and fill knowledge gaps about these chemicals and their occurrence in food. We’re committed to using all tools available to help ensure the food we consume is safe and doesn’t risk anyone’s health,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
When there are detectable levels of a chemical contaminant, including PFAS, in food, the FDA conducts a safety assessment using the best available current science to evaluate whether the levels present a possible human health concern. The FDA’s approach considers a number of factors, including whether there is an established action level or tolerance, how much of the specific food people typically eat, the level of the contaminant detected in that food and the toxicity of the specific contaminant(s). As part of the FDA’s ongoing effort to use the best available current science to assess the safety of exposure to PFAS from foods, the agency monitors the scientific literature and available toxicological reference values, which are compared to the estimated dietary exposure to determine the potential health concern. We update the toxicological reference values we use in our evaluations as warranted.
“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,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “Since we 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. The FDA remains committed to sharing further updates as our work in this important space progresses.”
The foods tested in the FDA’s recent analysis represent a range of foods that are in the general food supply and are chosen to be representative of the major components of the average U.S. diet, based on national food consumption survey data. The samples were not specifically collected from areas of known environmental PFAS contamination. The agency tested the samples as part of our broader effort to better understand the occurrence of PFAS in foods, determine if targeted sampling assignments are necessary to better understand occurrence in certain food categories and help inform the overall agency’s approach to future surveillance efforts.
The results released today are similar to results found in our previous analyses, which showed most TDS samples do not have detectable levels of PFAS, with the exception of the cod sample in this testing and from previous testing, two tilapia and one ground turkey sample. To better understand occurrence of PFAS in seafood, we are conducting a targeted survey of the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S., including both 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.