PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are a group of manufactured chemicals used since the 1950s to make everyday products that resist heat, stains, grease, and water. Find out more about their historical use and MPI's role testing foods for PFAS.
PFAS is an acronym for a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s to make products that resist heat, stains, grease, and water. The products include:
- household items
- personal care products
- cleaning products
- industrial products including metal plating and firefighting foams.
PFAS detected in airbase soil and groundwater
In November 2017 the New Zealand Defence Force notified MPI about elevated levels of PFAS – from historical use of firefighting foams – found in the ground and surface water within the Ohakea and Woodbourne airbases, and potentially beyond the bases into groundwater on adjacent properties.
What MPI is doing
MPI is supporting a Ministry of Health and New Zealand Defence Force investigation to assess any potential contamination risk.
No PFAS found in milk
MPI has tested for the PFAS chemicals PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) in milk produced from dairy farms neighbouring the Ohakea base. None were detected above the laboratory's reporting limits. Three of the tests had PFAS detections at extremely low levels. These levels were so low that the laboratory wouldn't normally report them at all. These levels pose no food safety risk.
Milk is a useful signpost to see if any contamination of productive land had occurred. These results mean there is highly unlikely to be a risk of PFAS transferring into wine grapes grown near Woodbourne base, or home grown fruit and vegetables in the regions around both sites.
MPI will continue to support the ongoing investigation and will test other food types, as required, if the results from groundwater monitoring tests suggest any risk of food contamination.
Investigations into PFAS in other countries haven't reported any welfare impacts on pets or livestock.