PFAS in food: EFSA assesses risks and sets tolerable intake
EFSA has set a new safety threshold A dose or exposure below which adverse effects are not detected. for the main perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that accumulate in the body. The threshold – a group tolerable weekly intake The maximum intake of substances in food, such as nutrients or contaminants, that can be consumed weekly over a lifetime without risking adverse health effects. ( TWI The tolerable weekly intake (TWI) is the maximum intake of substances in food, such as nutrients or contaminants, that can be consumed weekly over a lifetime without risking adverse health effects.) of 4.4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per week – is part of a scientific opinion Opinions include risk assessments on general scientific issues, evaluations of an application for the authorisation of a product, substance or claim, or an evaluation of a risk assessment. on the risks to human health arising from the presence of these substances in food.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that are manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the world (e.g. textiles, household products, fire-fighting, automotive, food processing, construction, electronics).
Exposure Concentration or amount of a particular substance that is taken in by an individual, population or ecosystem in a specific frequency over a certain amount of time. to these chemicals may lead to adverse health effects. People can be exposed to PFAS in different ways, including food, where these substances are most often found in drinking water, fish, fruit, eggs, and egg products.
The four PFAS that EFSA’s assessment focused on are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS).
Toddlers and other children are the most exposed population Community of humans, animals or plants from the same species. groups, say EFSA scientists, and exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding is the main contributor to PFAS levels in infants.
Experts considered the decreased response of the immune system to vaccination to be the most critical human health effect when determining the TWI. This differs from EFSA’s previous opinion on PFAS from 2018, which used increased cholesterol as the main critical effect The adverse effect seen at the lowest dose when a vulnerable population is exposed to a substance such as an environmental or food toxin. This can relate to humans as well as to other species such as animals, plants or microbes..
The 2018 opinion set separate TWIs for PFOS and PFOA, but EFSA has re-evaluated these substances considering more recent scientific knowledge and has followed its recent guidance for assessing combined exposure to multiple chemicals.
The latest scientific opinion addresses the feedback received from scientific organisations, citizens, and competent authorities in Member States during a two-month consultation between February 2020 and April 2020.
EFSA’s scientific advice will support risk managers in their decisions on how best to protect consumers from exposure to PFAS through food.
How can food become contaminated with PFAS?
Food can become contaminated through contaminated soil and water used to grow the food, through the concentration of these substances in animals via feed and water, through food packaging containing PFAS, or processing equipment that contains PFAS.