Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Fargo, North Dakota » Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center » Food Animal Metabolism Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #178889


item Huwe, Janice
item Larsen, Gerald

Submitted to: Environmental Science and Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/20/2005
Publication Date: 6/23/2005
Citation: Huwe, J.K., Larsen, G.L. 2005. Polychlorinated dioxins, furans, and biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in a U.S. meat market basket and estimates of dietary intake. Environmental Science and Technology 39(15):5606-5611.

Interpretive Summary: Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent pollutants found in the environment. While PCDD/Fs and PCBs are known to be toxic, PBDEs are not acutely toxic but may have chronic health effect. The major route of human exposure to PCDD/Fs and PCBs is through the food supply (mainly through meat, fish, and dairy). Routes of exposure to PBDEs are less well defined but may also include these foods. To investigate the current levels of these pollutants in foods and estimate exposure, we have measured levels of PCDD/Fs, PCBs, and PBDEs in 65 meat and poultry samples purchased at several supermarkets across the US. The samples included sirloin steak, hamburger, bacon, pork chops, and whole chickens. The levels of PCDD/Fs and PCBs were similar to levels found in other recent surveys of American, European, and Asian meat and poultry. The levels of these pollutants in foods appear to be declining. For PBDEs, this is some of the first data collected on levels in foods. The PBDE levels in beef and bacon were similar to levels reported for these products in Europe; however, the levels in pork and chicken were higher in US products than in European products. The data suggests that isolated contamination sources may exist and, if identified, could be removed from the food production chain thus lowering levels in foods and, eventually, humans. The estimated intakes of PCDD/Fs and PCBs from US meats and poultry were within the recommended safe amounts. For PBDEs, the estimated intake was in line with intakes of other countries, but because no recommended guidelines exist for intake, no health assessment can be made.

Technical Abstract: Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were analyzed in 65 meat samples collected from supermarkets across the US in 2001. The samples included hamburger, sirloin steaks, pork chops, bacon, and whole chickens from nine different cities. The average PCDD/F/PCB toxic equivalency (TEQ) for all the samples was 0.55 pg/g lipid (nd=DL/2) with a range from non-detectable to 3.21 pg/g lipid. PCDD/Fs accounted for approximately 80% of the toxicity. For PBDEs, eight congeners were routinely found in the meat samples with an average sum of 1.71 ng/g lipid (nd=DL/2) and a range from non-detectable to 16.6 ng/g lipid. While average TEQs were similar to recent values reported in Europe and Asia, the sum of PBDEs in chicken and pork was 3'20 times higher than levels reported in Europe and Japan for these foods. The presence of a few outliers raised the average PBDE sums and indicated that isolated sources of contamination may exist that, if identified, could be removed from the US animal production chain. Using these TEQ and PBDE values and USDA food consumption data, the estimated dietary intake range from meat products was 4.6'13.8 pg TEQ and 14.9'44.7 ng PBDEs/day or 2.6'7.8 pg TEQ and 8.4'25.2 ng PBDEs/kg body weight/month for an average individual.