From 1 January 2023, the limits on the presence of dangerous PFAS contaminants on meat, fish, eggs and other foods of animal origin are finally in force. After a very long wait, the European Commission has in fact approved the regulation (EU) 2022/2388 which amends the regulation (EC) n. 1881/2006 on contaminants in food products. (1)
PFAS, limits in foods of animal origin
The new regulation fixes the maximum levels in micrograms/Kg of fresh weight of food for each of the 4 best-known types of PFAS (PFOS, PFOA, PFNA and PFHxS) and their sum.
Among the foods now subject to the new limits are eggs, meat, fish, shellfish, molluscs, offal, as shown in the table taken from the regulation.
A global threat
The substances PFAS toxic chemicals are also widely used in the production of many everyday objects. They are found among others in non-stick pots and pans, paper and cardboard food packaging, waterproof fabrics, in cosmetics and electronic material (eg. smartphone). (2)
I 'never ever chemicals' – so known for their persistence in the environment and accumulation in the tissues of living organisms, with no possibility of biodegrading – have poisoned a large part of the planet. To the point of even finding themselves in rainwater in Tibet and Antarctica, as demonstrated by a recent study by the University of Stockholm dedicated to global pollution by PFAS, published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology (Cousins et al., 2022). (3)
From the environment to the plate
From the soils and watersThroughout the food chain, PFAS also contaminate drinking water and a wide variety of foods. Including freshwater fish, as highlighted in a very recent study conducted in the USA (Barbo et al., 2023). (4)
The diet is listed as the primary source of human exposure to these toxic chemicals. And exposure to PFAS is correlated with the onset of serious diseases, from cancer to endocrine and immune system disorders, infertility and hypercholesterolemia. ..
Insufficient and late protection
The introduction of limits to PFAS molecules in foods of animal origin launched at the end of 2022 by the European Commission is a positive but insufficient event, as well as late.
In the face of grave danger of public health, the European Commission has so far limited itself to recommending monitoring, rather than prohibiting or in any case defining insurmountable thresholds of contamination. As we have seen recently, in relation to the PFAS with the recommendation 2022/1431 of 24.8.22, as well as for other contaminants. (5)
The European Commission should also follow up on EFSA opinion 9.7.20 on the dangers associated with PFAS to extend the contamination limits to livestock feed and petfood. As also noted by Professor Alberto Mantovani, one of the leading experts in toxicology.
Comprehensive tender essential
pervasiveness and danger of PFAS molecules is unstoppable. The only reasonable action is to immediately ban its use globally, as it has been calling for for years ChemTrust (Protecting humans and wildlife from harmful chemicals), an organization funded by the Swedish government.
On hold of more effective measures, to avoid further exposure to PFAS it is useful to pay attention to the choice of products for daily use. Some practical tips:
- avoid trays, pans and saucepans with 'non-stick' coatings,
- in the consumption of fast-food and take-away foods check that the the packaging be tagged PFAS-free,
- discard cosmetics that list chemical substances (INCI) whose names contain the words 'fluorine'The'PTFE’,
- do not use dental floss coated with PTFE,
- select waterproof clothing labeled as 'PFAS-free'The'PFC-free'.
Footnotes to the story
(1) Commission Regulation (EU) 2022/2388 of 7 December 2022 amending Regulation (EC) no. 1881/2006 as regards the maximum levels of perfluoroalkyl substances in certain food products. Eur-Lex https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2022/2388/oj?utm_campaign=Oktopost-sglobal23_EA_EFF&utm_source=LinkedIn&utm_medium=social&utm_content=Oktopost-LinkedIn&locale=it
(2) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. Toxic chemicals in disposable tableware and packaging. Survey on PFAS in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.5.21
(3) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. PFAS in rainwater and food, a global ban is urgently needed. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.8.22
(4) Nadia Barbo, Tasha Stoiber, Olga V. Naidenko, David Q. Andrews (2023). Locally caught freshwater fish across the United States are likely a significant source of exposure to PFOS and other perfluorinated compounds, Environmental Research, Volume 220, 2023, 115165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2022.115165
(5) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. PFAS, furans, glycoalkaloids, Alternaria. The European Commission 'recommends' rather than prohibits. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.9.22
Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".