EUROPE – The European Commission has established maximum limits for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), popularly known as “forever chemicals,” which will take effect come January 1, 2023.

Foods may stay on the market until their use-by date or date of minimum durability if they were put there legally before January 1, 2023.

Limits have been specified for eggs, fishery products, bivalve molluscs, and meat and edible offal.

Regulation (EC) 2022/2388, which modifies Regulation (EC) 1881/2006, specifies the maximum levels emphasizing Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), which are kinds of PFAS that are or have been widely utilized for commercial and industrial purposes. 

Furthermore, PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, and PFHxS may cause developmental effects and have negative effects on serum cholesterol, the liver, the immune system, and birth weight, according to a scientific opinion published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in July 2020.

The EFSA set a group-tolerated weekly intake (TWI) for the combined amounts of PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, and PFHxS of 4.4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight (ng/kg) per week since it deemed the effects of PFAS on the immune system to be the most important.

It however notes that the EU population’s exposure to PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, and PFHxS surpasses the TWI.

Human exposure to PFAS has increased due to its bioaccumulation in the environment and use in materials that come into contact with food.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined in an analysis that there were no detectable levels of PFAS in the nation’s food supply chain.

As such, it declared that it was shifting focus to the occurrence of PFAS in seafood, where it planned to conduct a targeted survey of the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S., including both cod and tilapia.

“The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, and the available scientific evidence does not support avoiding particular foods because of concerns regarding PFAS exposure.

“Since we began testing foods from the general food supply for PFAS in 2019, only four samples out of the nearly 300 tested have had detectable levels of PFAS and none have been determined to be at levels of concern for human health. The FDA remains committed to sharing further updates as our work in this important space progresses,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D.

Foods can be contaminated with PFAS due to the soil or water used to grow them. Further contamination can result from the concentration of these substances in the food that animals eat, such as feed or water itself. 

PFAS can also be transmitted through food packaging or processing equipment.

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