Risk to human health related to the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances in food

EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), Dieter Schrenk, Margherita Bignami, Laurent Bodin, James Kevin Chipman, Jesús del Mazo, Bettina Grasl-Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Jean Charles Leblanc, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Elsa Nielsen, Evangelia E. Ntzani, Annette Petersen, Salomon Sand, Christiane Vleminckx, Heather Wallace, Lars Barregård, Sandra Ceccatelli, Jean-Pierre CravediThorhallur Ingi Halldorsson, Line Småstuen Haug, Niklas Johansson, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Martin Rose, Alain-Claude Roudot, Henk van Loveren, Günter Vollmer, Karen Mackay, Francesca Riolo, Tanja Schwerdtle

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The European Commission asked EFSA for a scientific evaluation on the risks to human health related to the presence of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in food. Based on several similar effects in animals, toxicokinetics and observed concentrations in human blood, the CONTAM Panel decided to perform the assessment for the sum of four PFASs: PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS and PFOS. These made up half of the lower bound (LB) exposure to those PFASs with available occurrence data, the remaining contribution being primarily from PFASs with short half-lives. Equal potencies were assumed for the four PFASs included in the assessment. The mean LB exposure in adolescents and adult age groups ranged from 3 to 22, the 95th percentile from 9 to 70 ng/kg body weight (bw) per week. Toddlers and ‘other children’ showed a twofold higher exposure. Upper bound exposure was 4- to 49-fold higher than LB levels, but the latter were considered more reliable. ‘Fish meat’, ‘Fruit and fruit products’ and ‘Eggs and egg products’ contributed most to the exposure. Based on available studies in animals and humans, effects on the immune system were considered the most critical for the risk assessment. From a human study, a lowest BMDL10 of 17.5 ng/mL for the sum of the four PFASs in serum was identified for 1-year-old children. Using PBPK modelling, this serum level of 17.5 ng/mL in children was estimated to correspond to long-term maternal exposure of 0.63 ng/kg bw per day. Since accumulation over time is important, a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 4.4 ng/kg bw per week was established. This TWI also protects against other potential adverse effects observed in humans. Based on the estimated LB exposure, but also reported serum levels, the CONTAM Panel concluded that parts of the European population exceed this TWI, which is of concern.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere06223
Number of pages391
JournalEFSA Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: The Panel wishes to thank the following for their support provided to this scientific output as Hearing experts: Klaus Abraham, Esben Budtz-Jørgensen, Tony Fletcher, Philippe Grandjean, Hans Mielke and Hans Rumke and EFSA staff members: Davide Arcella, Marco Binaglia, Petra Gergelova, Elena Rovesti and Marijke Schutte. The Panel wishes to acknowledge all European competent institutions, Member State bodies and other organisations that provided data for this scientific output. The Panel would also like to thank the following authors and co-authors for providing additional information in relation to their respective studies: Berit Granum, Margie M Peden-Adams, Thomas Webster.


  • PFAS
  • food
  • exposure
  • mixtures
  • immune system
  • PBPK
  • risk assessment


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