Risk to human health related to the presence of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid in food

Helle Katrine Knutsen, Jan Alexander, Lars Barregård, Margherita Bignami, Beat Brüschweiler, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Michael Dinovi, Lutz Edler, Bettina Grasl-Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Isabelle P Oswald, Annette Petersen, Martin Rose, Christiane Vleminckx, Günter Vollmer, Heather Wallace, Laurent BodinJean-Pierre Cravedi, Thorhallur Ingi Halldorsson, Line Småstuen Haug, Niklas Johansson, Henk van Loveren, Petra Gergelova, Karen Mackay, Sara Levorato, Mathijs van Manen, Tanja Schwerdtle, EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM)

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The European Commission asked EFSA for a scientific evaluation on the risks to human health related to the presence of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in food. Regarding PFOS and PFOA occurrence, the final data set available for dietary exposure assessment contained a total of 20,019 analytical results (PFOS n = 10,191 and PFOA n = 9,828). There were large differences between upper and lower bound exposure due to analytical methods with insufficient sensitivity. The CONTAM Panel considered the lower bound estimates to be closer to true exposure levels. Important contributors to the lower bound mean chronic exposure were ?Fish and other seafood?, ?Meat and meat products? and ?Eggs and egg products?, for PFOS, and ?Milk and dairy products?, ?Drinking water? and ?Fish and other seafood? for PFOA. PFOS and PFOA are readily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, excreted in urine and faeces, and do not undergo metabolism. Estimated human half-lives for PFOS and PFOA are about 5 years and 2?4 years, respectively. The derivation of a health-based guidance value was based on human epidemiological studies. For PFOS, the increase in serum total cholesterol in adults, and the decrease in antibody response at vaccination in children were identified as the critical effects. For PFOA, the increase in serum total cholesterol was the critical effect. Also reduced birth weight (for both compounds) and increased prevalence of high serum levels of the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase (ALT) (for PFOA) were considered. After benchmark modelling of serum levels of PFOS and PFOA, and estimating the corresponding daily intakes, the CONTAM Panel established a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 13 ng/kg body weight (bw) per week for PFOS and 6 ng/kg bw per week for PFOA. For both compounds, exposure of a considerable proportion of the population exceeds the proposed TWIs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere05194
Number of pages284
JournalEFSA Journal
Issue number12
Early online date13 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: The Panel wishes to thank the hearing experts: Tony Fletcher, Philippe Adam Grandjean and Marco Zeilmaker, and EFSA staff members: Davide Arcella for the support provided to this scientific output. The Panel acknowledges all European Competent Authorities that provided occurrence data on perfluoroalkylated substances in food, and supported the data collection for the Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database. The Panel would also like to thank the following authors and co‐authors for providing additional data in relation to their respective studies: Esben Budtz‐Jørgensen, Jerry Campbell, Jessie A Gleason, Berit Granum, Mette Sørenson, Kyle Steenland and Kristina W Whitworth.


  • PFOS
  • PFOA
  • food
  • exposure
  • BMD
  • PBPK
  • risk assessment


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