New research has added several items to the ever-expanding list of beloved food products contaminated with PFAS chemicals.
PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s to make products resistant to water, heat, grease and stains, including products used to package food.
The chemicals have been linked to various adverse health conditions, like increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, increased cholesterol levels, liver damage, high blood pressure, decreased vaccine response and other conditions.
In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that looked at food products sold in China, Chinese researchers found that containers for ice cream, instant noodles and bubble tea that are made with PFAS chemicals leach the chemicals into the product.
The researchers found that the length of storage and temperature at which the products were stored affected the amount of PFAS chemicals that migrated to the products. The amount of dairy and fats in the products also made a difference in the amount of PFAS levels detected.
The ice cream brands tested were found to contain the PFAS chemicals PFOA, 6:2 polyfluoroalkyl phosphate and 6:2 fluorotelomer phosphate diester. The same PFAS chemicals were detected in instant noodles along with PFBA and L-PFBS.
The highest level of PFAS chemicals was detected in bubble tea, with more than double the amount of PFOA detected in ice cream or instant noodles.
In the U.S., there are very few regulations on PFAS chemicals in food packaging. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of food additives using voluntary phaseout of some “food contact substances” containing another PFAS chemical, 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol, in 2020. In 2021, the FDA issued a letter to manufacturers limiting the type of fluorinated polyethylene containers authorized for food contact use to a single type, known as high-density polyethylene containers.
PFOA is one of two chemicals targeted for regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency issued a proposed rule designating PFOA and PFAS as hazardous substances under the nation’s Superfund law. The EPA is also pursuing a limit on the amount of PFOA and PFOS that can be found in treated drinking water.