PFAS are per and polyfluoroalkyl substances that have been used in the industry since 1940s due to their useful functions. These substances were added to variety of products as anti-sticking agents or waterproof components. There are hundreds of different types of PFAS but the most common ones are Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS).
PFAS can be found in variety of areas and products including, drinking water, food contact packaging, food such fish, dairy or other food requiring water to grow, household products such as clothing, cookware or upholstery, cosmetics or fertilizers used in agriculture.
People are exposed to PFAS in many ways throughout everyday activities. The problem with those substances is that they breakdown slowly and therefore concentrate in people, animals and the environment.
The studies on how certain levels of PFAS affect human health are ongoing. What we know today is that exposure to those substances can cause cancer, birth defects and variety of other health effects including lower immune to infections, developmental effects in children, increased cholesterol, and interference with natural human hormones.
While EPA works on studying how PFAS affects humans from many different sources, FDA focuses their efforts on studying food and food contact packaging. Starting 2019 FDA tested food collected as part of the Total Diet Study which includes products bought at grocery stores and represents a broad range of foods available on the market. FDA also tests foods that come from the areas that have known contamination with PFAS. With foods from those regions that contain levels of PFAS that might be a human health concern, FDA will work with state and local agencies to assess each case and determine further actions.
Ongoing efforts of EPA, FDA and other regulatory agencies are aimed at determining specific levels of PFAS in food that causes health effects. FDA developed laboratory testing methods to test levels of PFAS in food. Those can be found on their website at https://www.fda.gov/media/131510/download
In response to EPA and FDA studies, several states implemented regulations that forbid food and food packaging companies to intentionally add PFAS to their products. These regulations went to effect starting January of this year.
Since PFAS appear to be complex and represent a broad spectrum of effects on human health it is expected that regulatory agencies continue the studies and come up with guideline documents and perhaps even additional regulations. At the time, there is no estimated deadline where we will see some definite requirements for PFAS levels in food.