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  1. CFSAN Constituent Updates

Constituent Update

May 31, 2023

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sharing updates on our activities to better understand PFAS in the general food supply including, recent testing results, progress on seafood related work, and advances in testing methods.

Testing Results for PFAS in the General Food Supply

To estimate dietary exposure to PFAS from the general food supply, the FDA has been testing fresh and processed foods consistently since 2019. To date, we have tested nearly 800 samples from a wide range of foods collected for the FDA’s Total Diet Study (TDS) or collected as part of targeted assignments. Our testing for PFAS in the general food supply is ongoing and we are taking steps to expedite our testing schedule by increasing our lab capacity.

Today, we are sharing testing results for PFAS in 186 samples from two regional collections from the TDS (Dataset 6 and Dataset 7). We detected PFAS in two cod and two shrimp samples, and one sample each of tilapia, salmon, and ground beef. For the samples where PFAS was detected, each type of PFAS for which there are toxicological reference values (TRVs) was assessed individually. The FDA has concluded that exposure to the PFAS at the levels measured in the seven samples are not likely to be a health concern for young children or the general population.

The data shared today are consistent with our previous TDS testing results; no PFAS have been detected in over 97% (701 out of 718) of the fresh and processed foods tested from the TDS. At least one type of PFAS was detected in 44% (14 out of 32) of the TDS seafood samples and in 74% (60 out of 81) of the samples from our 2022 targeted seafood survey.

Activities to Better Understand PFAS in Seafood

The data on PFAS in seafood is still very limited; however, our testing indicates that seafood may be at higher risk for environmental PFAS contamination compared to other types of foods. Except for canned clams from China, we have determined that none of the other PFAS exposures with TRVs at the levels measured in the FDA’s testing of seafood are likely to be a human health concern. For canned clams, voluntary recalls were issued by two firms, and we are continuing to test a limited number of import shipments at the border and domestic products on the market. Filter feeders, such as clams, but also other bivalve mollusks, including oysters, mussels, and scallops, have the potential to bioaccumulate more environmental contaminants than other seafood types. We are therefore pursuing additional sampling of imported and domestic bivalve mollusks to better understand PFAS in commercially available seafood.

As the science evolves and as we advance our understanding of PFAS in commercial seafood, it is important that the seafood industry considers PFAS contamination in their products and complies with applicable regulations to ensure the safety of seafood commercially available. If the FDA finds that a detectable level of PFAS in a certain food raises safety concerns, we take action, which may include working with the manufacturer to resolve the issue and taking steps to prevent the product from entering, or remaining in, the U.S. market.

The FDA is committed to maintaining the availability of safe seafood, as it provides key nutrients for children and adults. We will continue to apply the latest science to increase our understanding of the levels of PFAS in seafood, the reasons for differences within and across types of seafood, and to help identify strategies that can reduce PFAS in seafood. To achieve our shared goal of a safe and nutritious seafood supply, we will continue engaging with industry to advance our understanding of PFAS in commercial seafood, such as understanding current testing practices, sources of PFAS in seafood products, and potential mitigation strategies. In addition, the FDA is available to provide technical assistance to industry as laboratories work to expand their analytical capabilities to test for PFAS in seafood.

Advancing the Science of Testing for PFAS in Foods

There are thousands of types of PFAS. To identify the types of PFAS the FDA tests for in food, we review the scientific literature and select PFAS based on their expected uptake by foods and the availability of the chemical standards to accurately identify their presence. In 2019, we started with 16 types of PFAS; in 2022, we added four additional PFAS to our testing, and in 2023 we have further expanded our testing methodology to test for 30 types of PFAS. The revised method will be shared publicly later this year.

The FDA is also expanding our research effort by using high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). This will allow us to determine which additional types of PFAS, beyond those we are specifically testing for with the current method, are present in foods and should be included in targeted methods going forward.

In addition, as part of our technical assistance to states, the FDA is contributing to research to understand how PFAS is taken up by plants, and how PFAS concentrations vary between plants and parts of a plant. This is an area of research that may help us make significant reductions in PFAS exposure from food. For example, by studying PFAS uptake, researchers may help identify plants that can be safely grown in contaminated soil without PFAS uptake to the edible portion of the plant.

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