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  1. Environmental Contaminants in Food

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Testing Foods & Assessing Safety | Analytical Results | Authorized PFAS | Q&A | Announcements

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a diverse group of thousands of chemicals used in hundreds of types of products. PFAS in the environment can enter the food supply through plants and animals grown, raised, or processed in contaminated areas. It is also possible for very small amounts of PFAS to enter foods through food packaging, processing, and cookware.

Because exposure to some types of PFAS have been linked to serious health effects, we are working to better understand PFAS in foods. Since 2019, we have:

  • Advanced testing for PFAS in foods by:
    • Making available the first single lab validated scientific method for testing 30 different types of PFAS in a highly diverse sample of foods.
    • Optimized our testing method for use in processed foods.
    • Extended our testing method from 16 to 30 types of PFAS.
  • Tested nearly 1,300 samples of foods on the U.S. market.
  • Provided technical assistance to states, including testing over 400 samples from foods (not on the market) grown, raised, or processed in known areas of contamination.
  • Conducted human health assessments for individual PFAS detected in 174 samples, including from foods on the U.S. market and foods tested as part of FDA’s technical assistance to states.
  • Analyzed  post-market scientific data on certain short-chain PFAS and negotiated voluntary market phase-outs. In February 2024, the FDA announced that all grease-proofing agents containing PFAS are no longer being sold in the U.S.

In  2024-2025, we will continue to test foods from the general food supply, with the goal of accurately estimating U.S. consumers’ exposure to PFAS from foods. This includes testing TDS samples and a survey of bottled water.  We will also conduct additional seafood testing, including a targeted sampling assignment of filter feeders, such as clams, and other bivalve mollusks, including oysters, mussels, and scallops, and a 600-sample survey of the top ten consumed seafood species in the U.S. To expedite our testing schedule, we are taking steps to increase our lab capacity.

The results of our testing of the general food supply are summarized and posted throughout the year. If the agency finds that the level of PFAS creates a health concern about a particular food, 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. For example, in 2022, two firms recalled products after FDA’s testing determined the levels of PFAS were a likely health concern.

What Are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemicals that resist grease, oil, water, and heat. They were first used in the 1940’s and are now in hundreds of products including stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints, and fire-fighting foams. Certain PFAS are also authorized by the FDA for limited use in cookware, food packaging, and food processing equipment.

Chemically, individual PFAS can be very different. However, all have a carbon-fluorine bond, which is very strong and therefore, they do not degrade easily.

The widespread use of PFAS and their persistence in the environment means that PFAS from past and current uses have resulted in increasing levels of contamination of the air, water, and soil.

Accumulation of certain PFAS has also been shown through blood tests to occur in humans and animals. While the science surrounding potential health effects of bioaccumulation is developing, exposure to some types of PFAS have been associated with serious health effects.

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