FDA gives updates on PFAS testing in food

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has disclosed results of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) testing in 186 samples from the Total Diet Study (TDS). The findings revealed PFAS in few samples of cod, shrimp, tilapia, salmon and ground beef. The FDA's assessment of toxicological reference values (TRVs) indicates that the detected PFAS levels should not pose health risks for the general public or young children. This is consistent with prior results, where over 97% of tested fresh and processed foods had no detectable PFAS.    

The FDA has tested nearly 800 samples of various foods since 2019 to estimate PFAS dietary exposure. Currently, the FDA is speeding up testing by increasing lab capacity.    

Data on PFAS in seafood is limited, but the FDA said it may be more prone to environmental PFAS contamination than other foods. Aside from canned clams from China, the FDA found no PFAS exposures likely to be unsafe. Some voluntary recalls have been initiated, and the FDA plans to test more imported and domestic bivalve mollusks to better understand PFAS in commercial seafood.    

The FDA urged the seafood industry to watch for PFAS contamination and follow rules to ensure seafood safety. If a detectable PFAS level raises safety concerns, the FDA will work jointly with the producers to prevent the product from entering or remaining in the US market. The FDA will work with the food industry to enhance understanding of PFAS in seafood, including testing, sources and ways to reduce it. Moreover, the FDA offers help to laboratories to expand PFAS seafood testing.    

To identify which PFAS to test in foods, the agency reviewed the scientific literature and prioritized those chemicals more present in foods and with available standards for accurate identification.    

During the years, the FDA has broadened its testing methodology, expanding the number of PFAS included into its analysis (currently, 30 types of PFAS).    

The FDA is also utilizing high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to identify additional PFAS types in foods beyond those currently tested, contributing to future targeted testing methods.    

The agency is conducting research on PFAS absorption in plants and concentration differences between various plant parts in collaboration with state partners. This research is expected to help reduce PFAS exposure from food.