Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances in commercial organic eggs via fishmeal in feed
By Kit Granby, Bjarne Kjær Ersboll, Pelle Thonning Olesen, Tue Christensen, and Soren Sorensen
November 7, 2023
Chicken eggs can be a significant source of human PFAS exposure. A survey of PFAS in commercial eggs from larger farms across Denmark showed the absence or low contents of PFAS in free-range and barn eggs. However, organic eggs from eight farms collected in September 2022 had a similar profile of nine PFASs with a predominance of odd over even carbon length PFCAs. Farm 11-13 e.g. had egg yolk ng/g concentrations of PFOA 0.07 ± 0.02; PFNA 0.37 ± 0.04; PFDA 0.13 ± 0.00; PFUnDA 0.22 ± 0.04; PFDoDA 0.06 ± 0.02; PFTrDA 0.15 ± 0.04; PFTeDA 0.02 ± 0.02; PFHxS 0.10 ± 0.04; PFOS 2.62 ± 0.11. Normalised to PFOS, the relative sum of other PFAS showed no difference between the eight organic egg samples, but significant differences between mean individual PFASs (p = 1.4E-25), reflecting a similar profile. The PFAS found in two fishmeal samples with the same origin as the fishmeal used for the organic feed production, could account for the contents in the eggs via estimated transfer from the feed. Furthermore, the estimated transfer from concentration in feed to concentration in egg increased with the carbon length of the PFCA. Exposure (95th percentile) of ∑4PFAS (PFOA, PFNA, PHHxS, PFOS) solely from consumption of 311 g ∼ 5-6 organic eggs/week was for children 4-9 years 10.4 ng/kg bw, i.e. a significant exceedance of the tolerable weekly intake of 4.4 ng/kg bw established by the European Food Safety Authority. Based on the PFAS exposures from organic egg consumption, the organic egg producers decided voluntarily to cease adding fishmeal to the feed. Since the feed-to-egg half-lives are ≤1 week for PFOA, PFOS, and PFHxS, the removal of fishmeal as a feed ingredient should eliminate PFAS after 1-2 months. This was demonstrated in analyses of ten organic egg samples collected by the authorities without PFAS in eight and with 0.1 and 0.4 ng/g ∑4PFAS in two samples.