Quick question ‒ what do grocery store meats, seafood and off-the-shelf chocolate cake all have in common? Unfortunately, the answer is not something that will make these products more appealing. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, all of these items all contain toxic chemical compounds.
The Popularity of PFAS
You probably aren’t too familiar with polyfluoroalykyl substances (PFAS), but rest assured that these chemicals reside inside your home. Introduced to the public by the DuPont Corporation in 1938, PFAS compounds can be found in litany of common household products, ranging from food packaging to carpets to outdoor gear to even dental floss.
The reason for their widespread popularity largely stems from their ability to give cookware non-stick qualities. They also prevent stains from forming on clothes and carpets, and are used in the manufacture of firefighting foam. In total, it is estimated that there are more than 5,000 types of PFAS chemicals in various products.
Think Before You Buy?
Given the prevalence of these substances, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently sought to determine the presence of PFAS in certain items, including popular foods. What they discovered doesn’t make for pleasant reading; relatively high amounts of PFAS were detected in almost half of both meat and fish samples. In fact, PFAS levels in these items were determinted to be over two times greater than what federal guidelines allow.
If you think those numbers are concerning, then the results for chocolate cake might convince you to give up cake and other sweets altogether. Chocolate cake samples contained more than 250 times the amount allowed in drinking water (this was the only federal guideline available to the FDA).
There is one silver lining to these results, however. In response to her agency’s findings, FDA spokesman Tara Rabin stated that the high PFAS levels measured in the above products “not likely to be a human health concern.” For at least some observers, the FDA study warrants further research into this subject. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, opined that “what this calls for is additional research to determine how widespread this contamination is and how high the levels are. We have to look at total human exposure — not just what’s in the water or what’s in the food … or not just dust. We need to look at the sum totals of what the exposures are.”