WASHINGTON – The two top officials with the Food and Drug Administration today dismissed test results by the agency’s own scientists that found high levels of the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in food.
Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas issued a joint statement that said: “. . . [B]ased on the available current science, the FDA does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern” and do not pose “a food safety risk in human food” at the levels FDA found in the samples it tested.
The FDA’s dismissal comes after last week’s revelation by EWG and the Environmental Defense Fund that the agency found PFAS chemicals in samples of meat, seafood and dairy products; sweet potatoes; pineapples; leafy greens, and chocolate cake with icing, but did not make the results public. In response to today’s FDA statement, EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D., said:
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.
Suggesting that the levels FDA found in a few food samples render the food supply safe, simply ignores the significant role that food plays in our overall PFAS body burden. FDA routinely underestimates the risks chemicals pose, especially the risks posed by food chemicals that migrate from food packaging into food, including PFAS chemicals. FDA should be fighting to reduce our exposure to toxic PFAS, not papering over the risks. FDA should ban the use of PFAS in packaging and demand testing of sewage sludge before it’s applied to farm fields.
The FDA tested for the presence of 16 PFAS chemicals in foods sampled across eight mid-Atlantic states. The FDA detected the compound PFOS in approximately half of the meat and seafood products; PFPeA in chocolate milk and high levels in chocolate cake with icing; PFBA in pineapple; and PFHxS in sweet potato. In a related study, the FDA detected the notorious PFAS chemical GenX and highly elevated levels of numerous other PFAS in samples of leafy greens grown within 10 miles of a PFAS production facility.
The use of PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge, concentrated waste from residential and industrial sources, as a fertilizer on farm fields is another way PFAS chemicals find their way into crops grown for food and animal feed.
Concerns about PFAS contamination in the U.S. food supply go back nearly two decades. A study published in 2001 and commissioned by the chemical company 3M highlights in great detail how this family of chemicals migrates into food.
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, 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.