The food safety watchdog came to its conclusion after testing a range of retail foods for fluorinated substances - including perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Results from the tests showed that average adult dietary intake of the chemicals in 2007 fell well below tolerable daily intake levels set by the European Union, said the FSA.
The agency said it analysed the levels of PFOA, PFOS and related fluorinated chemicals in retail samples of fish, offal, meat, eggs, milk, dairy products, bread, cereals, popcorn, vegetables and jams.
Almost three quarters of the foods contained no traces of any of the chemicals. All meat samples, with the exception of offal, were free from the substances, FSA scientists confirmed.
The chemical that was detected most often and at the highest levels was PFOS – particularly in fish, liver and kidney samples. The two highest concentrations of PFOS were in whitebait and smoked eel. However, the chemical was absent from all samples of meat, potatoes, potato products, popcorn or other cereals, vegetable oils or fish oil dietary supplements.
PFOS has recently been designated as a Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm Convention. This means that its use must be phased out eventually but that some uses are allowed to remain until alternative products are available.
Perfluorooctane sulphonamide (PFOSA) was the next most frequently detected chemical, but only in fish and shellfish. The highest concentrations were found in two whitebait samples. Low concentrations of PFOA were detected only in one sample of whitebait, six of crab and three of liver.
PFOS and PFOA tend to bind to certain proteins rather than to bioconcentrate in fat, but they have some potential to bioaccumulate in the food chain. Accordingly, they are more likely to be found in the blood and liver rather than the fatty components of foods, said the FSA.
Average dietary intakes
Based on the results of the study, the FSA estimated the average adult dietary intakes from the diet in 2007 were 0.01 microgram/kg bodyweight/day for PFOS and 0.01 microgram/kg bodyweight/day for PFOA. The corresponding high level adult dietary intakes were 0.02 and 0.02 microgram/kg, said the body.
The FSA said: “The survey results do not raise any toxicological concerns. These are well below the Tolerable Daily Intakes (TDIs) recently set by the European Food Safety Authority of 0.15 and 1.5 microgram/kg bodyweight/day for PFOS and PFOA respectively.”
The survey had been carried out to investigate which foodstuffs contain these chemicals, and update previous estimates of dietary intakes of the substances by UK consumers. The research could also be used to provide data for use in any future EU negotiations on the issue