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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in U.S. meat and poultry from two statistically designed surveys showing trends and levels from 2002 to 2008

item Huwe, Janice
item West, Mark

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/14/2011
Publication Date: 5/25/2011
Citation: Huwe, J.K., West, M.S. 2011. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in U.S. meat and poultry from two statistically designed surveys showing trends and levels from 2002 to 2008. Journal of Agricultural Food & Chemistry. 59(10):5428-5434.

Interpretive Summary: Our food supply can be one source of exposure to persistent organic pollutants. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) periodically monitors domestic foods to determine what levels of these contaminants are present in our foods and how these levels change over the years. Recently the USDA measured the concentrations of a new class of persistent organic pollutant, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in domestic meat and poultry samples collected in 2002 and in 2008. The meat and poultry samples included beef, pork, chicken, and turkey and were collected to represent typical consumption of these foods in the United States. The results of the surveys showed low but measurable amounts of PBDEs in all the samples. A comparison of the data from the two collection periods showed decreasing levels of PBDEs in the foods over time. In the six year period, the PBDE levels had decreased by more than 50% in each of the food categories. The reason for the large decrease in PBDEs was most likely due to their removal from production in the U.S., in 2004. These declining trends in food illustrate the effectiveness of regulations and surveillance programs and most likely will result in corresponding declines in human levels of these pollutants.

Technical Abstract: Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) body burdens in the general U.S. population have been linked to the consumption of red meat and poultry. Exposure estimates have also indicated that meat products are a major contributor to PBDE dietary intake. In order to establish solid estimates of PBDE concentrations in domestic meat and poultry, samples from two statistically-designed surveys of U.S. meat and poultry were analyzed for PBDEs. The two surveys were conducted in 2002-2003 and 2007-2008, between which times the manufacturing of penta-BDE and octa-BDE formulations had ceased in the U.S. (December, 2004). Thus the data provided an opportunity to observe prevalence and concentration trends that may have occurred during this time frame and to compare the mean PBDE levels among the meat and poultry industries. Based on composite samples, the average sum of the seven most prevalent PBDEs (BDEs-28, 47, 99, 100, 153, 154, and 183) decreased by more than 60% from 1.95 ng/g lipid in 2002-2003 to 0.72 ng/g lipid in 2007-2008 for meat and poultry. PBDEs measured in individual samples in 2008 showed that beef samples had the lowest PBDE levels followed by hogs and chickens, and then by turkeys. The PBDE congener pattern was the same for both surveys and resembled the penta-BDE formulation with BDEs-47 and 99 accounting for 30% and 40% of the total, respectively. Based on data from the two surveys, it appears that PBDE levels in U.S. meat and poultry have declined since manufacturing ceased; however, sources and exposure pathways of PBDEs to livestock are still not known.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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