In an article published on June 3, 2019, the Associated Press informed about a recent study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that found high levels of per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances (PFAS) in meats, seafood, and chocolate cake sold in grocery stores near a PFAS production plant in the U.S. The chocolate cake in particular was reported to contain 17,640 parts per trillion (ppt) of perfluoro-n-pentanoic acid (PFPeA, CAS 2706-90-3), a value 250 times higher than the maximum level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently recommends for drinking water. Of meat samples tested, 10 of 21 had quantifiable levels of perfluoroctanesulfonate (PFOS, CAS 1763-23-1) ranging from 134 ppt in sausage to 865 ppt it tilapia. A spokesperson for the FDA said in a comment that the levels are “not likely to be a human health concern.” Jamie DeWitt, a toxicologist specializing in PFAS at East Carolina University, commented that “individually, each [contaminated food] item is unlikely to be a huge problem, but collectively and over a lifetime, that may be a different story.”

PFAS are used in a wide range of products. An article from the Environmental Defense Fund reviewing the FDA findings suggested that “the [chocolate] cake was contaminated from the intentional use of the chemical to greaseproof paper that contacted the cake rather than from an environmental source.” The samples were purchased by the FDA in October 2017 as part of the agency’s Total Diet Study. The results were first presented as a poster last week at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meeting in Helsinki, Finland. The FDA has since been reported to say that they plan to publicly release the study’s findings. On June 11, 2019, the FDA released a statement on the agency’s scientific work to understand PFAS and on the recent studies.

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Ellen Knickmeyer (June 3, 2019). “FDA: Sampling finds toxic nonstick compounds in some food.” Associated Press

Tom Neltner (June 3, 2019). “FDA finds surprisingly high levels of PFAS in certain foods – including chocolate cake.” Environmental Defense Fund

FDA (June 11, 2019). “Statement on FDA’s scientific work to understand per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food, and findings from recent FDA surveys.

FDA (June 2019). “PFAS.

IFT (June 11, 2019). “FDA confirms PFAS chemicals rae in our food.