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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fargo, North Dakota » Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center » Food Animal Metabolism Research » Research » Research Project #436179

Research Project: Evaluation of Blood and Tissue PFAs Levels in Unintentionally Contaminated Dairy Animals

Location: Food Animal Metabolism Research

Project Number: 3060-32420-001-019-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Mar 6, 2019
End Date: Sep 30, 2019

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. A New Mexico dairy farmer’s herd of approximately 5,000 dairy cattle (the "Highland" herd) consumed drinking water contaminated with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These chemicals are used as foaming agents for fire retardants, and they bioaccumulate in humans and animals resulting in potential reproductive and developmental issues. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed a scientific advisory committee in 2005 and determined that PFOA is “likely to be carcinogenic in humans.” In October 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested and determined that the milk from the New Mexico herd was adulterated, and FDA subsequently notified FSIS of their findings in early November. Upon receiving FDA’s notification, FSIS notified state animal health officials that cattle from Highland Dairy should not be shipped to a federally inspected establishment and are not eligible to be slaughtered and processed for human food. Since then, FSIS has been working to address the disposition of the meat from these animals in an effort to bring some resolution to the dairy producer. Currently the baseline PFAS concentration in beef produced in the United States is unknown. Canada and the European Union have conducted studies that estimate meat at retail to contain approximately 0.5 to 0.75 ppb of PFAS. The objective of this agreement is to generate baseline serum and tissue residue data in cattle exposed to a water source contaminated with PFAs and to obtain kinetic data describing the depletion of PFAs from unintentionally exposed food animals.

• Plasma samples (240) will be collected from 120 animals on the affected farm by APHIS and shipped to the USDA ARS laboratory in Fargo, ND for PFAs analyses • Through a cooperative agreement with New Mexico State University, tissue samples will be collected from approximately 20 animals (5 each: lactating cows, calves, dry dairy cattle, heifers) and shipped to the ARS laboratory for residue analysis. A subset of the tissue samples will be sent to the USDA FSIS Eastern lab for pathology/histology assessments. • Through a cooperative agreement with New Mexico State University, 10 animals (2 lactating cows; 2 adult dry cows; 2 heifers; and 4 300/500 lb calves) will be purchased and housed at NMSU animal facilities. Blood/tissue samples will be obtained by NMSU cooperators at approximately 5-week intervals over a period of one year to assess pharmacokinetic parameters associated with PFAs depletion. Plasma samples will be sent to the ARS laboratory in Fargo for residue analyses. A subset of the tissue samples will be sent to ARS lab for residue testing and a subset to the FSIS Eastern lab for pathology/histology studies. Any surviving animals at the end of the study, will be further managed/disposed by NMSU.