Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


PERfluorinated organics in Our Diet (FOOD QUALITY AND SAFETY)

Project acronym: PERFOOD

Title of project: PERfluorinated organics in Our Diet

Research area: Food Quality and Safety

Contract No: 227525

EU contribution: €2 999 432

Start date: August 2009

Duration: 40 months

Status: finalised

Anthropogenic perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), are known to be generally persistent in the environment and are used for a wide variety of industrial purposes. Food and possibly beverages, including drinking water, are likely to be contaminated with PFCs, thus giving rise to human exposure.

PFCs have indeed been found to be present at a global scale in blood of the general population. The European Food Safety Agency has set limits for PFAS intake, but realistic calculations were prevented by the high frequency of non-quantifiable analytical results. The PERFOOD project brought together European research institutes with experts in food consumption and drinking water quality, as well as food processing and packaging. The partners investigated the origin of PFCs in people’s diets, and the contribution diet makes to total human exposure.

PERFOOD developed robust and reliable analytical tools for the determination of PFAS, and used these to qualify and quantify PFAS in our diet. It advanced understanding on how PFAS are transferred from the environment into dietary items, and quantified the possible contribution of food contact materials and food and water processing to the overall PFAS levels in our diet.

The newly gained knowledge enabled the partners to evaluate the possible routes, including their relative importance, for human exposure to PFAS via diet and to identify ways to reduce this. By using standardised food items in an EU-wide survey, the research revealed that some food categories, i.e. seafood, fish, bovine liver, pork and bovine meat and hen eggs appear to be more highly contaminated with PFAS than other items. The most elevated levels measured so far were found in food items from Belgium, indicating the influence of industrial production sites of PFAS.

In farm-based research, the pathways and occurrence of different PFCs were identified, both in animals and vegetables; and higher levels were found in farmed fish compared to wild fish. The partners also investigated intake via food packaging and identified several materials as potential sources of PFCs in food. To support future work, the project also prepared candidate reference materials that will serve the chemical analysis community in Europe and the rest of the world.

The very low detection limits achieved by the high quality analytical-method development within the PERFOOD project allow for more sensitive measurements on food items that hitherto could not be reported because of less sensitive methods. The results of the assessments, including the sensitivity analyses performed, now allow scientists to identify threshold values for the contamination of most consumed food items, water included, that can be translated into geo-referenced risk management options.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Prof. Pim de Voogt,

Organisation: UvA - Universiteit van Amsterdam-IBED, The Netherlands,