The FDA Found PFAS in These Foods. Here’s What it Means to You 

by Jake Newby

| 3 min read

The FDA Found PFAS in These Foods. Here’s What it Means to You 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in canned tuna, fish sticks and protein powder during a recent Total Diet Study.  The study tested 167 foods that contained the most commonly consumed components of the average United States resident’s diet. Nationally distributed processed foods –including certain baby foods, frozen foods, boxed, canned and jarred foods – were tested in the study. The FDA’s top takeaway was that while trace levels of PFAS were found in these three items, the organization has “no scientific evidence” that the levels of PFAS found in these foods should scare individuals away from buying and consuming any particular food. The brands of these fish sticks, cans of tuna and protein powder samples were not identified by the FDA. PFAS are a family of thousands of manufactured chemicals that were put into production in the 1940s for use in stain- and water-resistant fabrics, carpeting, cleaning products, paints, and fire-fighting foams, among other items. Certain PFAS are authorized by the FDA for limited use in cookware, food packaging, and food processing equipment. The study’s findings are consistent with other recent FDA studies that found certain samples of rainbow trout exposed to contaminated food and water, as well as other recent tests that found levels of PFAS in cod, tilapia and ground turkey. The FDA will follow up on this most recent Total Diet Study by conducting a targeted survey of common seafood items in the U.S. Results from that survey will be used to determine if more sampling is needed, according to the FDA. Meanwhile the EPA is collaborating with the National Institute of Health (NIH) on a wide range of PFAS-related research including assessing more than 140 PFAS compounds and exploring alternatives to PFAS-containing firefighting foams and other products.

How Can I Best Avoid Bringing PFAS into my Home?

PFAS have been a hot-button issue in Michigan in recent years as the source of contaminated water have been detected across multiple Michigan communities. Earlier in October, the Biden administration announced plans to regulate and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS substances in those water supplies. This announcement comes on the heels of an August 2020 adopted ruleset that, for the first time in Michigan history, placed regulations on the limitation of PFAS contamination in drinking water. As the legal debate to limit PFAS in our drinking water wages on, and the FDA continues to test for PFAS in our foods, there are precautions you can take to limit your exposure to these “forever chemicals” and keep them out of your home.
  • Read consumer product labels and avoid those that include PFAS or say “perfluor-” or “polyfluor-“
  • Buy cast iron, glass or ceramic cookware instead of Teflon.
  • Choose textiles and carpeting that are void of water and stain repellency.
  • Steer clear of food that comes in greaseproof packaging.
According to the CDC, which notes that more research is needed on the subject of PFAS, some scientific studies suggest that exposure of high levels of certain PFAS can lead to the following health complications: 
  • Decreased vaccine response in children
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer
  • Small decreases in infant birth weights
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
  • Changes in liver enzymes
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