Texan chemists have discovered flame-retardant additives in supermarket meat.

Texan chemists have discovered flame-retardant additives in supermarket meat.

’You are what you eat’ looks an increasingly unappetising prospect now that researchers have found a wide range of fire-retardant additives in the food on sale in Texas, US, supermarkets.1 Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were found at surprisingly high levels in meat and fish on sale in Texan stores, pinpointing a likely source of the contaminants the same researchers had previously found in the breast milk of Texan mothers.2

’The increasing presence of PBDEs in human tissue is of particular concern due to their association with endocrine disruption,’ writes Arnold Schecter, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Texas’ School of Public Health in Dallas, US, and colleagues in a report of their latest findings.

PBDEs are common flame-retardant additives in electronics and in polyurethane foam used for carpet padding, mattresses, chairs, sofas and other furniture. They have been detected in humans across the globe, but it was not clear how they were getting there.

Schecter claims this is the first survey of brominated flame retardants in the food on US supermarket shelves. His team studied 30 food types from major Texas supermarket chains, and found that PBDE levels are highest in fish (1700 parts per trillion (ppt)), followed by meat (283 ppt), and then dairy products (31 ppt).

’Although these findings are preliminary and will be updated with analyses of new samples, they suggest that food is a major route of intake for PBDEs,’ says Schecter.

Bea Perks