- The FDA has found PFAS present at detectable levels in various foods supporting an EPA 2016 health advisory.
- PFAS are listed as possible carcinogens and are linked to other health concerns.
- Foods grown in contaminated soils, irrigated with contaminated water, or in contact with certain food wrappings may contain PFAS.
- Media discussions on PFAS hazards have further raised consumer awareness.
- Monitoring ingredients and packaging reduce contamination risk.
What are PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)?
PFAs are long-lasting, man-made polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been used since the 1940s in food packaging, stain, water-repellent products, paints, cleaning supplies, and fire-fighting foams. Over time PFAS have built up in the water, soil, and bio-accumulated in animals. They have been linked to many health issues and are possible carcinogens. The most studied PFAS forms are PFOA and PFOS.
Why are you hearing more about them recently?
In June 2019, the FDA published a report finding detectable levels of PFAS in dairy, produce, cranberries, grains, seafood, and chocolate cake. While FDA stated these levels do not present a health concern, many companies are evaluating their systems, notably in the above-listed foods and food-contact packaging.
This has been a hot topic in environmental labs for years and in 2016, EPA issued a health advisory for PFOA and PFOS for drinking water at levels of 0.07 ppb
There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects, notably causing tumors in animals, increased cholesterol levels, and it is listed as a potential endocrine-disruptor. People are exposed to these chemicals from food grown in contaminated soil & water, food contacting some food packaging, and from equipment containing PFAS.
Who is impacted?
Food & packaging companies using certain food-contact packaging (notably fast-food wrappers, microwave bags, molded fiber bowls) as well as crops, fish, livestock, and water.
Materials at higher risk are ones produced near production sites that have used PFAS to manufacture stain-resistant materials, non-stick cookware, and aerospace/medical/automotive applications.
What can be done?
Many companies are now gathering information to understand the level of PFAS risk in their foods and packaging. The first step is creating a list of relevant higher risk foods & packaging. Current suppliers can then be audited to assess their safety protocols but of course, actual data is needed to show if those protocols are effective and to uncover any hidden events.
Here are a few steps to get started with to build your plan:
- Assess your ingredient and packaging streams for PFAS risks.
- Develop a supplier monitoring strategy including sample collections schemes, proper sample transport, and data collection with interpretation.
- Use the correct analytical methods. Mérieux NutriSciences analyzes following the industry-standard EPA 537 method and expanded it to cover testing foods and packaging at the needed testing limits.
- Discuss how to evolve the monitoring strategy overtime to assure it is an effective, cost-efficient program.
Mérieux NutriSciences’ Consulting Department can assess your risks of PFAS finding their way into your system, allowing us to work together to create the right monitoring strategy for you.
Contact us for more information about setting up the right program for you.