On February 24, 2020, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its draft scientific opinion on the risks to human health arising from the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food. The opinion proposes a group tolerable weekly intake (TWI) limit of 8 ng/kg body weight for the four substances perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA; CAS 335-67-1), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA; CAS 375-95-1), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS; CAS 355-46-4), and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFOS; CAS 1763-23-1). The agency’s previous opinion from 2018 set separate TWIs for PFOS and PFOA (FPF reported), however the agency says it has now re-evaluated these values considering more recent scientific knowledge and using the agency’s recent ‘MixTox’ guidance for assessing combined exposure to multiple chemicals (FPF reported).
Decreased response of the immune system to vaccination was used as the critical human health effect in determining the new TWI value. This is different from EFSA’s earlier opinion, which used increased cholesterol as the critical effect. EFSA states that the proposed new TWI is expected to be protective against other potential health effects, including the increase of cholesterol. Furthermore, the new TWI also protects the most exposed population groups, which include infants, toddlers, and other children. Infant exposure was identified to be the highest during fetal development and breastfeeding. The foodstuffs that contribute most to the exposure to these four PFASs were identified as drinking water, fish, fruit, and eggs, as well as products derived from them.
The draft opinion is currently open for public comment until April 20, 2020. EFSA is especially seeking additional data to describe the occurrence of these PFAS in a broader range of foods at low concentrations using more sensitive analytical methods. The agency is also planning to hold a technical workshop with stakeholders on March 12, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the draft opinion. A report from the workshop will later be posted publicly on the agency’s website.
EFSA (February 24, 2020). “PFAS public consultation: draft opinion explained.”
Keller & Heckman LLP (March 3, 2020). “EFSA Publishes Draft Scientific Opinion on PFASs in Food.”