Last week, We found out that the Food and Drug Administration discovered PFAS compounds in pineapple, sweet potatoes, meat and chocolate cake. The presence of industrial compounds in our food was reported by the Working Group on Environment, after an employee of the Environmental Protection Fund took photographs from a research at a scientific conference in Europe.
While FDA fields are questioning why they did not present this information to the public itself (the agency released the data along with a statement on Tuesday), it became clear that 3M, the company that originally developed PFOS and PFOA, knew for a very long time that these toxic and persistent chemicals were in our food.
According to a 2001 study sponsored by 3M, 12 food samples from all over the country – including ground beef, bread, apples and green beans – were positive for PFOA or PFOS. One piece of bread had 14,700 parts of a trillion PFOA, although the report noted that the sample was considered a "suspect".
The Environmental Protection Agency for years knew about the study, but it is unclear whether the FDA was aware of the research. The Environmental Working Group mentioned the 3M study in the 2002 PFAS chemicals report and warned the Centers for Disease Control.
On Tuesday, lawyer Rob Bilot told the FDA to ask "to what extent the FDA was aware of the data collected on behalf of 3M Company in 2001, which confirmed the increased level of PFAS in food supplies to the United States." In 1999, Bill sued DuPont for contamination by PFOA around his plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where the company used chemicals to make Teflon. Through his court proceedings, he obtained many PFAS documents, which he submitted to EPA, FDA and other federal agencies.
EPA did not answer questions about exactly when it became aware of the 3M study. 3M did not respond to a request for comment.
The FDA statement said on Tuesday that recent tests "did not reveal PFAS in the vast majority of foods tested". The statement also says that "based on the best available current science, the FDA has no indication that these substances are human health concerns, in other words, the risk of food safety in human food at levels found in this limited sampling."
However, there is ample evidence that at very low levels, both chemicals affect human immunity, reproduction and development and cause more health problems, including elevated cholesterol, thyroid disease and cancer. Practically everyone has some PFAS chemicals in their blood. They enter the body through food, water, dust, and exposure to consumer products.
There are several possible ways in which industrial chemicals enter the supply of food, including contaminated groundwater and sewage sludge, which for decades has spread to agricultural crops throughout the country.
New research presented at the PFAS Conference at the Northeast University this week suggests other chemical effects, including the increased hospitalization of children for infectious diseases; decreased renal function; and changes in levels of hormones at birth and during childhood. A study in West Africa about the relationship between PFAS levels for the measles vaccine effect is added to evidence that chemicals interfere with childhood immunity and weaken the effect of vaccines. Another study from the Medical School at the Harvard Medical School showed that high levels of PFAS are associated with high-fat carbohydrate diets, fish and high-fat meat.