Advice from BuRO on PFAS in home-produced chicken eggs

BuRO advices the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport to ask the Netherlands Nutrition Center to inform consumers about the possible health risks of PFAS that the consumption of home-produced eggs may entail. In addition, BuRO advices to initiate additional (international) research into PFAS levels in home-produced eggs, with specific attention for the various sources that may lead to PFAS exposure of private chickens. Given the scale of the PFAS problem, BuRO recommends to include this research in a broader research program on PFAS.

PFAS in chicken eggs

PFAS are a group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are man-made substances that do not occur naturally in the environment. More than 4000 PFAS are known. Human studies show that long-term exposure to PFAS may lead to negative effects on the immune system and the liver. PFAS can end up in eggs from animal feed or soil, water and/or grass.

Motivation for this research

The NRC newspaper published research at the end of August 2023 showing that eggs from chickens owned by private individuals from the Dordrecht area contain high levels of PFAS. According to NRC, the consumption of these eggs would lead to health risks. After this publication several news items appeared in the national media that paid attention to increased PFAS levels in home-produced eggs.

In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is the competent authority of food legislation and regulations. It is responsible for and authorized to act in the event of food safety risks. Eggs from privately owned chickens do not fall under the supervision of the NVWA because these eggs are not marketed for commercial sale. Nevertheless, for the NVWA the health of consumers is of high importance and has concerns about this topic. That is why the Office for Risk Assessment & Research (BuRO) of the NVWA has investigated this signal further on its own initiative.

Research question

BuRO investigated the following question:

Is there a risk to the health of Dutch consumers if exposed to PFAS over a longer period, via the consumption of home-produced chicken eggs?

The investigation led to the following answer:

Home-produced eggs in the Netherlands can contain high levels of PFAS. At this time no relationship can be established with a known source of contamination or location. It is therefore not possible to determine in advance which home-produced eggs contain these high levels.

The weekly PFAS intake through the consumption of home-produced eggs exceeds the health-based guidance value (i.e. the maximum safe intake). This means that the weekly PFAS intake due to the consumption of these eggs over a longer period of time can lead to health risks. Consumption of eggs from the supermarket (commercial eggs) does not lead to excessive PFAS intake and can therefore be eaten safely.

This risk assessment regarding the consumption of eggs does not take into account background exposure to PFAS through the consumption of other foodstuffs. According to RIVM, the total PFAS intake of Dutch consumers is too high. This excessive exposure is therefore irrespective from eating home produced eggs.