WASHINGTON – Extremely highly levels of a common “forever chemical” linked to cancer have been detected in canned clams.
The Food and Drug Administration found a sample of canned clams contained 20,000 parts per trillion, or ppt, of PFOA, one of the most common members of the class of toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS. All ten samples of clams tested had high levels of PFAS and are considered likely to be a health concern by the FDA.
A safe level has not been established for PFOA in food, but the Environmental Protection Agency last month concluded the safe level for PFOA in water was .004 ppt.
At least one company whose product was found to contain very high levels of PFOA is Bumble Bee Foods. The company has issued a voluntary recall in response to the FDA’s findings.
“These levels are extremely high,” said EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “Consumers should avoid eating canned clams from this company.”
The FDA warned people to reduce their consumption of canned clams but did not issue similar warnings about other mollusks. The FDA tested 81 samples of eight species of fish for 20 different PFAS. At least one type of PFAS was detected in 60 samples.
“Toxic PFAS can bioaccumulate in mollusks like canned clams, as well as in other seafood people eat, such as fish,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “Thousands of companies discharge their PFAS wastes into rivers, lakes and bays, where seafood can become contaminated.”
The FDA has only recently begun to test food for PFAS, even though the agency has understood since 1966 that PFAS could increase cholesterol and cause liver lesions. For decades, the FDA approved proposals by Dupont, 3M and other companies to use PFAS in food packaging, despite knowing the chemicals migrate to food.
Although drinking water and other household products can expose people to PFAS, food is also a large source of exposure to these chemicals, according to experts. PFAS can also contaminate irrigation water or sewage sludge that is applied as a fertilizer.
“We need to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution if we want to protect our food supplies from these toxic forever chemicals,” Benesh said. “So far, the EPA has been slow to restrict the industrial releases of PFAS that can contaminate our seafood.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.