FDA says 'forever chemicals' in some foods not a human health concern

FDA says 'forever chemicals' in some foods not a human health concern
© Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to allay concerns after an agency study found harmful “forever chemicals” in some food, saying they did not “have any indication that these substances are a human health concern.”

The Tuesday statement follows the leak of the FDA study to U.S. media, which was presented at a conference in Finland.

The class of chemicals, known as PFAS, are linked with cancer and other health issues.

PFAS is widely used in common household products, and the chemical has also been found in water supplies across the country after breaking down.

ADVERTISEMENT
But FDA research found the substance in food, including produce, milk, meat and store-made chocolate cakes.

FDA’s latest statement tried to put consumers at ease, noting that most of the food tested did not contain PFAS.

“The FDA does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern... at the levels found in this limited sampling,” the agency said in the statement. “These data give our scientists a benchmark to use as we continue our critical work studying this emerging area of science.”

PFAS is often referred to as a “forever chemical” given its persistence in the environment and even human bodies. A study estimates the chemical is found in the blood of 98 percent of humans.

The study presented in Finland found PFAS in 14 of the 91 samples tested, but the samples of meat and store-bought chocolate cake had particularly high levels of PFAS.

The FDA study focused on the ways food might be impacted after nearby water and soil is contaminated with PFAS.

But critics say PFAS presence in chocolate cake shows the chemical is either staying in the food chain long past the farm or may be entering through the nonstick coating applied to food packaging.

“Americans are exposed to toxic PFAS through drinking water, air, everyday products, and through food. There is growing evidence that people are already exposed to PFAS at levels that are causing harm, and that food is a major route of exposure,” said David Andrews, senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, which monitors the spread of PFAS.

Andrews accused the FDA of "papering over the risks" of the chemical's presence in foods, and called on the agency to ban the use of PFAS in packaging.

“FDA routinely underestimates the risks chemicals pose, especially the risks posed by food chemicals that migrate from food packaging into food, including PFAS chemicals," he added. "FDA should be fighting to reduce our exposure to toxic PFAS, not papering over the risks."