FDA’s PFAS Food Survey Shows Safe Levels, Prompts Further Study

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued results of the first-ever survey of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in nationally distributed processed foods last week, concluding that there is currently no need to avoid any particular food. Survey results revealed that all but three of the 167 foods tested, including baby foods, had no discernible levels of PFAS. The ones that did were fish sticks, canned tuna, and protein powder.

The FDA’s press release explained that PFAS are chemicals used in consumer and industrial products to resist grease, oil, water and heat. The agency stated that the study’s purpose was to better understand the risks of dietary exposure to these chemicals.

The FDA also explained that the surveyed products were selected from its Total Diet Study (TDS), which monitors levels of nutrients and contaminants in domestically consumed foods. Those foods reportedly “represent the major components of the average diet of the U.S. population based on results of the national food consumption surveys.” 

Specifically, frozen foods and packaged, shelf-stable foods, which are less likely to vary geographically or by time of year were among those used in the recent survey. Additionally, the samples were not specifically collected from areas of known environmental PFAS contamination.

Since 2019, the FDA stated, it has tested 440 TDS samples for certain PFAS from three regional collections and one national. Previously available TDS survey results were from the regional collections and included foods that were more likely to vary by location or time of year, such as fresh produce, meats, and dairy products.

The FDA partly disclaimed the study’s findings, noting that even though it found detectable levels of PFAS in certain seafood samples in this and previous surveys, the sample sizes were limited. The FDA thus cautioned that the results “cannot be used to draw definitive conclusions about the levels of PFAS in seafood in the general food supply.” The agency is, however, conducting a targeted survey using the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S. to determine if additional sampling, either targeted or with greater sample sizes, is necessary.