The threshold – a group tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 4.4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per week – is part of a scientific opinion on the health risks posed by these substances in food.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals manufactured and used globally in industries including textiles, household products and electronics as well as food processing.
EFSA claims exposure to the chemicals may lead to adverse health effects. People can be exposed in different ways, including through food consumption, where PFAS are most often found in drinking water, fish, fruit, eggs, and egg products.
The four PFAS that EFSA’s assessment focused on are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS).
Toddlers and children most exposed
Toddlers and other children are the most exposed population groups, say EFSA scientists, and exposure during pregnancy and breastfeeding is the main contributor to PFAS levels in infants.
Experts considered the decreased response of the immune system to vaccination to be the most critical human health effect when determining the TWI. This differs from EFSA’s previous opinion on PFAS from 2018, which used increased cholesterol as the main critical effect.
The 2018 opinion set separate TWIs for PFOS and PFOA, but EFSA has re-evaluated these substances considering more recent scientific knowledge and has followed its recent guidance for assessing combined exposure to multiple chemicals.
The latest scientific opinion addresses the feedback received from scientific organisations, citizens, and competent authorities in EU member states during a two-month consultation between February 2020 and April 2020.
EFSA’s scientific advice is intended to support risk managers in their decisions on how best to protect consumers from exposure to PFAS through food.
PFAS can enter food through contaminated soil and water used to grow the food or through the concentration of such substances in animals via feed and water. They can also contaminate food via food packaging containing PFAS, or processing equipment containing PFAS.