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To Reduce PFAS Levels in Food, Cook at Home

Jun. 17, 2024

To Reduce PFAS Levels in Food, Cook at Home

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PFAS expert tips: How to reduce your exposure to harmful ' ...

Scientists have found PFAS in food, food packaging and various kitchen items.

In food wrappers and containers, PFAS are often added to help make them resistant to oil, water and grease.

Elsie Sunderland, an environmental chemist at Harvard, tested some compostable containers from a university dining hall. Her team found PFAS leached out of the containers at levels higher than have been measured at a superfund site on Cape Cod.

&#;So there's a lot of PFAS in the coatings of certain compostables,&#; said Sunderland. &#;That's the bad news. The good news is, in just a few years, a lot of people heard about this. And now you have PFAS-free compostables.&#; An environmental advocacy group, compiled a list of products whose makers have pledged not to use PFAS.

Avoid grease-resistant food containers

Experts recommend reducing the length of time food is in containers or food wrappers that might have PFAS. For example, if you are refrigerating food for later, put it into a different container. And when heating up food, it&#;s best to use a container that&#;s unlikely to have PFAS, such as a glass or ceramic container.

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How much PFAS transfers from wrappers and containers into food? This can vary, according to Dartmouth&#;s Romano. Some factors include what type of PFAS is in the product, and &#;the temperature, the acidity of the food, how you're handling the package,&#; Romano said.

Romano urged people to avoid microwave popcorn that comes in a bag. It is, unfortunately, &#;the perfect delivery system,&#; she said, &#;because you have the heat and the oil that's going from the packaging into the popcorn.&#;

Avoid nonstick pans

Many nonstick pots and pans contain PFAS. When cooking, the chemicals can get into the air and may also migrate into food. Environmental contamination from manufacturing sites and landfills is also a concern. So, some experts say it&#;s best to avoid these products.

&#;I would try to pick a pan that doesn't list itself as nonstick,&#; said Sunderland.

Instead, experts recommend using cookware made of cast iron, stainless steel, glass or enamel. There is also a growing market for &#;PFAS-free&#; kitchen items (but be sure to read the tip below about how to decode a PFAS label).

Which foods have PFAS?

PFAS in the soil or groundwater can be absorbed by crops and plants, or consumed by fish swimming in nearby rivers and streams.

PFAS also tend to concentrate in wastewater. One byproduct from wastewater treatment, known as biosolids, is used as fertilizer. In some states, these fertilizers have been spread on fields, contaminating crops and animal feed, even showing up in cows&#; milk and meat.

Although scientists have found PFAS in some produce, meat and dairy products, there isn&#;t yet enough information to make concrete dietary recommendations.

&#;We just don't have comprehensive data from diet items in the U.S.,&#; said Sunderland. &#;If you look at the parallel European data, diet is the predominant exposure pathway for most groups.&#;

Which food groups were the biggest contributors varied by age, gender, location and other factors, she said.

Several studies, including a recent U.S. study, suggest certain fish and shellfish have higher levels of PFAS, although it did not seem to be an issue for most commercially available fish.

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