New tests commissioned by EWG suggest the presence of PFAS at elevated levels in some pet food bags; seven types of PFAS were found in bags used by several brands, including Purina, Kibbles n’ Bits, Meow Mix, Blue Buffalo

Sample article from our Packaging Industry

November 3, 2022 (press release) –

New tests suggest the presence of PFAS at elevated levels in some pet food bags.
Dust from PFAS-laced pet food bags can add to household contamination.
Seven types of PFAS were found in bags used by several brands.

The toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS create health hazards at home, since they’re used in everyday items like cookware and cosmetics – and new EWG research finds some popular pet food packaging can be yet another way we’re exposed to the perils of PFAS.

Seven pet food brands found at Walmart and other retailers were found to contain some PFAS. Exposure to these forever chemicals have been linked to serious health concerns for people, including cancer, harm to fetal development and reduced vaccine effectiveness.

The tests uncovered individual PFAS in some of the pet food bags: the chemicals PFBA, PFPeA, PFHxA, PFHpA, x62FTCA, x62diPAP and PFPrA.

Purina Cat Chow Complete Chicken had the highest concentration of total PFAS, at 245 parts per billion, or ppb, followed by Kibbles n’ Bits Bacon and Steak flavor, with almost 15 ppb total PFAS. The other bags tested had less than 15 ppb total PFAS.

PFAS are found in the blood of almost every American, and tests have revealed their presence in our beloved pets, risking their health as well. EWG’s research aimed to find out whether pet food packaging might also be a concern.

It’s almost impossible to avoid PFAS, because they’re so prevalent in almost all aspects of our daily lives. Not only do we come into contact with these chemicals through the products in which they’re used, but these items shed PFAS-laced dust that further contaminates households and can pollute air and water once disposed in the trash.

Just as children ingest pollutants with tap water, play on lawns with pesticide residues and breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants, so do our pets. But with compressed life spans – many animals mature and age seven or more times faster than children – pets also develop health problems from exposure much more rapidly, EWG has previously found.

Figure: Total PFAS detected in popular pet food brands' packaging

Detecting forever chemicals
To uncover the PFAS that may hide in pet food bags, EWG commissioned an independent, certified laboratory to conduct tests for total fluorine on 11 bags of pet food from seven popular brands. Tests for total fluorine, usually stated in parts per million, or ppm, indicate the likely presence of PFAS, but they don’t show which PFAS are present.

Further tests from our new research show that the packaging of some well-known pet food brands also hava detectable levels of specific PFAS, which are typically reported in ppb. The lab tested for specific PFAS on four bags with the highest concentrations of fluorine.

For cats, one of the highest results for total fluorine came from Meow Mix Tender Centers Salmon & Chicken Flavors Dry Cat Food, notching more than 600 ppm.

Of the samples, Purina Cat Chow Complete Chicken was next highest at just over 310 ppm of total fluorine. Three other cat food products – Blue Buffalo, Iams and Rachael Ray Nutrish – all had detections of under 100 ppm of total fluorine.

For dogs, Kibbles n’ Bits Bacon and Steak flavor registered just under 600 ppm of total fluorine, followed by Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe food, with just over 150 ppm. Other dog foods, two produced by Purina, one by Iams, and one by Pedigree, had much lower amounts of total fluorine detected.

Full testing results

Pet

Brand

Flavor

Total fluorine (ppm)

Number of PFAS

Total PFAS (ppb)

Cat

Blue Buffalo

Blue Adult Indoor Health with LifeSource Bits

71

NT*

NT

Iams

Proactive Health Healthy Adult with Chicken

60

NT

NT

Meow Mix

Tender Centers Salmon & White Meat Chicken

630

2

5.5

Purina

Cat Chow Complete Chicken

310

6

244.7

Rachael Ray Nutrish

Super Premium Food for Cats Real Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe

77

NT

NT

Dog

Blue Buffalo

Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe

140

1

1.7

Iams

Lamb and Rice Recipe

12

NT

NT

Kibbles ’n Bits

Bacon & Steak Flavor

590

2

14.3

Pedigree

High Protein Beef and Lamb Flavor

15

NT

NT

Purina

Dog Chow

< 10

NT

NT

Puppy Chow High Protein Complete with Real Chicken

< 10

NT

NT

* NT = Not tested

Migration risks
Although our research found the suggestion of PFAS in pet food bags, we haven’t concluded that the chemicals had migrated from the packaging to the food itself.

But other research has established the potential for PFAS in packaging to contaminate the food within, which would put families and their four-legged friends at further risk.

Research shows PFAS are present in fast food packaging, creating a further risk of exposure, given the millions of Americans who eat from these places every day. Some companies have agreed under pressure from consumers to phase out use of these chemicals.

But no top pet food manufacturers appear to have committed publicly to stop using forever chemicals in their packaging. And voluntary action will only go so far to lower the risk of pet food bags exposing people to PFAS at home.

We need strong new state and federal actions to eliminate sources of PFAS pollution. That includes preventing industrial discharges of forever chemicals, which can contaminate drinking water, and ending unnecessary uses of PFAS in pet food packaging and in products found in and around the home, including cosmetics, food and clothing.

The Biden administration has committed to several actions that will help to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution, particularly actions by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now it’s time for other agencies to step up, in particular the Food and Drug Administration. which could do more to keep forever chemicals out of food.

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