REVEALED: Tea, pork chops and peanut butter – the surprising foods teeming with cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’, study suggests

Tea, meat and peanuts are some of the humble foods that lead to a build-up of ‘forever chemicals’ of PFAS in the body, new research suggests.

While previous studies have tested foods for these toxins, experts are never quite sure how much of it gets into our systems and stays there.

For the new paper, scientists followed more than 700 participants for more than four years, regularly taking blood samples and studying exactly what they ate.

They describe the results as ‘very interesting’.

Foods and drinks normally considered relatively healthy, such as green tea, pork chops and bottled water, were all linked to higher levels of PFAS.

In contrast, fries, added sugar and tap water did not appear to increase the risk, contrary to findings from other research.

Researchers in the US found that tea, pork, sports drinks, processed meats, nut and seed butters, chips and bottled water lead to high levels of PFAS in the blood

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a category of man-made chemicals used to make products resistant to water, stains and heat.

They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally and are linked to several lasting health problems, including several types of cancer, endocrine disruption, thyroid problems, birth defects, kidney disease and liver damage.

The study looked at two groups of people with a total of more than 700 participants.

In one group, the researchers looked at what they ate and the PFAS levels in their blood for four years. They took blood samples at the start and three and four years later.

They also looked at fast food and found that burritos, fajitas, tacos, fries and pizza made at home were associated with lower PFAS concentrations, while those who ate the dishes from a restaurant had higher PFAS levels in their blood.

The diet that led to lower PFAS levels

  • Homemade food
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Domestic tap water
  • Sugar
  • Fruit drinks
  • Soft drink
  • Fruit
  • Cooked grains such as rice and oatmeal
  • Bread
  • Pastas
  • Some vegetables, including potatoes

The diet that led to higher PFAS levels

  • Restaurant cooked food
  • Tea (sweetened and unsweetened)
  • Pork
  • Sports drinks
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Snack chips
  • Bottled water

Hailey Hampson, a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California and lead author of the study, told The Guardian: ‘It’s really interesting to find that these foods, which may not be as healthy, when cooked at home, have a lower source of PFAS. and that certainly points to food packaging.’

The study also found that butter likely increased PFAS concentrations. Eating nuts was linked to lower levels of eternal chemicals in the blood, but nut butters showed higher levels.

The study found: ‘Given that nut and seed butters are packaged in grease-resistant containers, it is possible that nut and seed butters could contribute to increased exposure to PFAS through the packaging materials, rather than through the nuts and seeds themselves. ‘

Higher levels of PFAS in the blood associated with drinking more bottled water may also imply contamination via packaging or a contaminated water source.

Meanwhile, tap water was associated with lower concentrations of PFAS levels.

This contrasts with recent EPA data showing that more than 70 million Americans live in homes with tap water laced with PFAS.

The researchers theorized that high PFAS levels from tea mainly come from tea bags treated with forever chemicals, although they said more research is needed.

Eating a lot of processed meat was also seen to increase PFAS blood levels. Hampson said this was not surprising as the processing allows for multiple entry points for forever chemicals.

However, unprocessed cuts of pork also showed a strong association with increased PFAS blood levels, indicating that pigs may be contaminated.

People who ate one more serving of hot dogs than others were associated with a 25.4 percent higher blood PFNA concentration.

PFNA, also known as perfluorononanoic acid, is a synthetic chemical used in the production of nonstick and stain resistant coatings.

And a one-serving higher intake of processed meat was associated with a 9.8 percent higher PFOA concentration.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is another man-made substance used to make products resistant to stains, grease, dirt and water.

To the researchers’ surprise, participants who ate higher levels of sugar, fruit drinks and soda tended to show lower levels of PFAS in their blood.

They suggested that young adults drink more soda and fruit drinks, which may be less contaminated with PFAS than tap or bottled water.

Fruits, cooked grains such as rice and oatmeal, bread, pasta and some vegetables, including potatoes, were also associated with lower PFAS concentrations. This is thought to be because these foods are high in fiber and fiber has the potential to reduce PFA concentrations by increasing the rate at which PFAS are cleared from the body.

The study concluded: ‘Our results highlight the need for public monitoring of beverages, processed meats and food packaging, among other known sources of PFAS.’

It was published in the magazine Environment International.