June 30, 2021
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing our efforts to better understand the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the food supply. Today we are sharing updates on our work in this emerging area of science.
Recent Testing Results
Results (PDF: 181KB) from our most recent testing for certain PFAS in foods from the general food supply show that all but one of the 94 food samples did not have detectable levels of PFAS. One sample—cod— had detectable levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), two types of PFAS. Based on the best available current science, the FDA has no indication that the PFAS levels in the cod sample present a human health concern.
The foods tested were collected for the Total Diet Study (TDS) and represent a broad range of foods, including breads, cakes, fruits, dairy, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, and bottled water, that are in the general food supply, which the average consumer might eat, and that were not specifically collected from areas of known environmental PFAS contamination.
The sample sizes for the specific types of foods are limited and therefore cannot be used to draw definitive conclusions. The purpose of testing the TDS samples for PFAS is to better understand the occurrence of PFAS in foods, determine if targeted sampling assignments are necessary for certain foods, and to help inform the agency’s approach to future surveillance efforts.
As indicated by the FDA posted data, PFAS was detected in three samples of seafood (one cod and two tilapia) from three TDS regional collections, suggesting a need to better understand PFAS in seafood. Therefore, the FDA is conducting a targeted survey of the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S. The survey will collect and analyze 80 retail seafood samples including shrimp, salmon, canned tuna, tilapia, pollock, cod, crab, and clams. The PFAS results from this survey will be used to determine if additional sampling, with greater numbers of samples of fish and shellfish, is needed.
Toxicological Reference Values
When the FDA finds detectable levels of a chemical contaminant in food, such as PFAS, the agency conducts a safety assessment to evaluate whether the levels present a possible human health concern and warrant further FDA action. 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 for PFAS and updates the values we use in our evaluations as warranted. Recently, the agency began using the finalized minimal risk levels (MRLs) from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s May 2021 Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls, along with a new EPA reference dose, also finalized in 2021, in our evaluations of the safety of exposure to certain PFAS detected in foods.