FDA’s import alert targets synthetic chemicals for food products, including PFAS

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Francesco Scatena
Source: Getty/Francesco Scatena

Related tags PFAS Imported food Fda

The recent import alert grants FDA the authorization to prohibit entry of human food products into the US if they are contaminated with a broad range of synthetic chemicals that are deemed harmful for human consumption and the environment.

Import Alert 99-48, Detention without Physical Examination of Foods Due to Chemical Contamination, includes a broad range of synthetic contaminants, including benzene, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), from being distributing in food products in the US, the agency expressed in a statement yesterday​.

PFAS were once considered useful in food packaging as a component that makes products resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water. The close proximity of PFAS-contaminated packaging to food raises health concerns for humans, who are at risk of ingesting these harmful substances, and for the environment which can seep into the soil and water from landfills.

Federal and state agencies have juggled the legislative status of ‘forever chemicals’ PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds) over the last several years, underscoring the wide use of the chemical in the food industry.

Currently, 12 states are phasing out PFAS​ in food packaging, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington; in addition to Maine, Minnesota and Washington extending the ban of PFAS beyond food packaging.

In January 2022, FDA issued a proposed rule​ to revise its procedures and reasons for restricting the uses of food-contact substances for non-safety-related reasons, as reported previously​ in FoodNavigator-USA.

Citing a 2022 FDA survey for PFAS in imported 81 seafood samples (including clams, cod, crab, pollock, salmon, shrimp, tuna and tilapia), the agency determined that exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a type of PFAS, from certain samples of canned clams from China posed health concerns.

The survey set the precedent for FDA’s next targeted survey of molluscan shellfish this year, the agency reported, with the possibility of implementing the new import alert to prevent seafood contaminated with PFAS from entering the US.

“Specific firms and their food products found with levels of chemical contaminants that may pose a risk to human health may be subject to detention without physical examination (DWPE) under this import alert,” the agency shared in a prepared release.

A list of the effective food contact notifications (FCN) can be accessed here​.

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