FDA confirms string of 5,000 synthetic chemicals contaminates US food system

"What this calls for is additional research to determine how widespread this contamination is and how high the levels are."


After the Environmental Defense Fund revealed the existence of per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances, or PFAS in foods, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed the findings on Monday.

PFAS, created by DuPont in 1938, are synthetic chemicals used in non-stick cookware, but over the years has been used in many different industries to do anything from repel grease and water in packaged food to use in outdoor gear, carpets and most largely used in firefighting foam used by the Defense Department, according to the Associated Press.

The family of synthetic chemicals is made up of a string of nearly 5,000 different element bonds that are very difficult for both the environment and human beings to breakdown. According to CNN, “these chemicals can easily migrate into the air, dust, food, soil and water and can accumulate in the body.”

Some health effects of PFAS include liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression and cancer.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF ) obtained the FDA’s findings, which were presented at the 29th annual European meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Helsinki, Finland last month and the information was then made public by the which was then published by the Environmental Working Group before confirmation came from the FDA. While the EPA determined a “safe level for certain PFAS in drinking water at 70 parts per trillion (ppt),” FDA tests found PFAS levels more than 250 times higher than federal regulations set for drinking water in grocery store meat, fish and chocolate cake, EcoWatch reported.

Tara Rabin, the spokeswoman for the FDA, said this is “not likely to be a human health concern.” But experts said the most important question that needs to be answered is the impact of contamination to both the environment and human beings over time.

“What this calls for is additional research to determine how widespread this contamination is and how high the levels are,” Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said. “We have to look at total human exposure – not just what’s in the water or what’s in the food … or not just dust. We need to look at the sum totals of what the exposures are.”


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