The steady accumulation of brominated and fluorinated chemicals in foods do not pose a health risk at this time a UK scientific panel says.
The independent panel, which advises the Food Standards Agency (FSA), examined the available data for a range of foods for both groups of chemicals.
"Based on the results of these surveys, there are no implications for people's health," the FSA stated in a press release last week.
The processing industry is under regulatory and consumer pressure to ensure better safety of their food products and the packaging. Health concerns about packaging chemicals, such as phthalates, have raised consumer awareness of about the risks posed by materials
Fluorinated chemicals include related compounds such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are thought to be carcinogenic, and are being phased out in Europe and the US. DuPont, which uses PFOA in the making of products such as Teflon, is facing a number of lawsuits in the US over its use of the chemical.
Among other uses, PFOA is also employed in the manufacture of grease-resistant packaging for candy, pizza, microwave popcorn and hundreds of other foods.
The FSA panel said its survey of fluorinated chemicals, including perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and the related PFOA, was sparked by an increasing number of reports of the two being found in the environment, in fish and in other foods.
PFOS was found at concentrations above the limit of detection in the potatoes, canned vegetables, eggs and sugars and preserves food groups, the advisory panel reported.
PFOA was detected only in the potatoes food group. Other fluorinated chemicals were detected only occasionally, although ten different fluorinated compounds were found in the potatoes food group.
The panel said it has not yet come to a conclusion on establishing tolerable daily intakes levels for PFOS or PFOA.
"However, with regards to the results of the survey, it considered that there is considerable uncertainty in intakes, since the majority of food groups do not contain PFOS and PFOA at concentrations above limits of detection, and the survey results did not raise any immediate toxicological concerns," the panel stated in its report.
PFOS has a wide range of uses, which include protecting textiles and fabric from staining, and in fire-fighting foams. Its use is being phased out as it has been found to be potentially harmful and doesn't break down easily in the environment.
In the brominated chemicals survey the panel said the work was carried out due to the increasing number of reports of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and other brominated compounds being found in fish and other foods.
BFRs are chemicals used in the manufacture of such products as sofas to help prevent fire.
The panel estimated the average adult dietary intakes of a range of brominated chemicals for 19 different food groups that make up the UK diet, including bread, meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, nuts, green vegetables, milk and potatoes.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), brominated dioxins and furans, which are collectively referred to simply as brominated dioxins, and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) were analysed, along with hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs) and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBP-A) .
PBDE 209 was the most abundant PBDE found in samples, followed by PBDE 47. These and PBDEs 49, 66, 99, 100, 153 and 183 were detected in most of the food groups. Other PBDEs, brominated dioxins, PBBs and HBCDs were detected less frequently. TBBP-A was not found above the limit of detection in any food group.
The panel concluded that the concentrations of PBDEs, HBCD and TBBP-A detected in foods, including farmed and wild fish and shellfish, "do not raise toxicological concerns".
PFOA was labeled a "likely" human carcinogen by US Environment Protection Agency in January 2006. In April, a class action lawsuit was filed against DuPont due to PFOA contamination from its plant in Deepwater, New Jersey.
It is one among others DuPont faces relating to PFOA. DuPont was hit by allegations last year that it hid studies showing the high health risks of the chemical. DuPont has denied the charges.