Beef distributed by Livingston Co. farm might contain PFOS chemicals

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

State health officials are advising consumers that beef sold by a Hartland Township cattle company might contain the manmade chemical perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS. 

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice Friday on the potential contamination in beef purchased from Grostic Cattle Company farm near Hartland or at the Hartland Farmers Market or a meat trailer in the parking lot of the Rural King in Hartland. 

Beef samples taken from the farm’s freezer and analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service indicate that PFOS was present in the beef tissue, the state added.

"Preventing PFOS exposure is important because having prolonged exposure to PFOS may be a public health risk," the notice reads. 

"The product was sold to some Great Start Readiness and Head Start programs in the Livingston County schools. The schools have been notified and stopped using the beef," state officials said in a Friday statement.

The Howell-based Livingston Educational Service Agency said in a statement that it purchased about 30 pounds of beef from Grostic Farms in October, November and December. The meat was used to make chili and served on one day in each of those months, the agency noted.

PFAS foam gathers at the Van Etten Creek dam in Oscoda Township near the Wurtsmith Air Force Base. State health officials are advising consumers that beef sold by a Hartland Township cattle company might contain perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, one of a group of related manmade chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylated substances, or PFAS.

"We will be disposing of all remaining beef that we have in inventory and using a different provider in the future," the statement on its website reads. 

"The agency has spoken directly with representatives from the State of Michigan and the Livingston County Health Department," the agency added. "Both have assured us that there is no risk to the children enrolled in either program as the frequency and amount of beef used in our lunch program are limited."

The state said Friday that the farm is cooperating with state agencies and has removed the farm's stocks of beef and impacted cattle from commerce.

Grostic Cattle Company in a Friday Facebook post said the family farm has been serving the state for 100 years and “will cooperate with all city, state, county, and federal agencies to determine who is responsible for this unfortunate situation.”

PFOS is one of a group of related manmade chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylated substances, or PFAS. The group of chemicals is commonly used in a wide range of industrial processes and is found in many consumer products.

Associated health effects include reduced fertility, high blood pressure in pregnant women, higher cholesterol and certain types of cancer.

The consumption advisory was issued by the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, which aims to eliminate PFAS contamination in municipal wastewater biosolids and investigate historical land application sites across the state. 

Although the farm's beef results didn't fit USDA criteria for a recall or market withdrawal, the health department determined prolonged consumption of the beef from the farm could increase PFOS levels in the human body.

Out of an abundance of caution, the team is helping the farm to notify customers, the state said. 

Scientists with the state environmental and agricultural departments collected data showing PFOS, a PFAS compound, can bioaccumulate in the meat of beef cattle that exclusively received feed grown in fields fertilized with industrially impacted biosolids containing high concentrations of PFAS.

Under an interim strategy launched in 2021, Michigan began prohibiting the land application of industrially impacted biosolids containing more than 150 parts per billion of PFOS and it now requires testing of biosolids before land application.

Scott Dean, a spokesman for the state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, said Friday the state's PFAS action response team has been investigating the land application of industrially-impacted biosolids containing PFAS for about four years.

"Based on the data we’ve collected so far, this appears to be a unique situation," Dean told The Detroit News in an email about the farm. "This farm had the highest concentrations of PFOS-containing biosolids applied for the longest duration of any farm we’ve studied.

"The farmer also fed his cattle what he grew on the farm," Dean added. "He then sold beef direct and in bulk to a limited number of customers. The fact that he had recurring customers, consuming the same beef in volume was also a factor in putting out the advisory."

Dean noted because there are no state or federal standards for PFAS in crops and meat "we're simply informing (customers) of the potential risk." Presumably, he said, tossing it out is the course of action most will take. 

MPART Executive Director Abigail Hendershott noted in a post on the state's website that the small farm in Livingston County had unknowingly applied industrially impacted, PFAS-containing biosolids from the City of Wixom to fields used to grow feed and provide pasture for beef cattle being sold directly to customers locally.

The farm investigation stemmed from the 2018 discovery of high levels of PFOS in the wastewater handled by the City of Wixom wastewater treatment plant in Oakland County.

EGLE and the City of Wixom worked with the plating facility to install carbon filtration technology which reduced PFOS discharges by 99%, the state noted.

Based on the high levels of PFOS in the Wixom treatment plant's biosolids, MPART researchers selected it along with several other wastewater treatment plants across the state for a 2019 study of the environmental impacts of the agricultural use of PFAS-containing biosolids.

The Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, a coalition of individuals impacted by toxic contamination, said in a Friday statement that it's deeply concerned by the biosolid contaminants found in livestock at the farm, which originated from the Wixom plant. 

"It signals a potential broadening of the scope of PFAS concern across Michigan, where there are approximately 7,000 sites at which biosolids have been used as fertilizers," the group said in a Friday news release. "GLPAN commends the impacted farm family in this case for its swift actions to help to limit exposures and offers its support to the family in dealing with the effects of contamination that the family did not cause."

“Virtually all of us are impacted by PFAS, and that’s why we need to continue to ramp up state and federal efforts to clean up and rein in the use of these harmful chemicals," said Tony Spaniola, co-chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.

Dean said that the state's team has a good handle on the safety of Michigan beef when it comes to PFAS, but residents get most of their beef from outside of Michigan, prompting urging from the state, he said, for the federal government for more research and standards for PFAS in biosolids. 

Health-related questions or concerns from the consumption of this beef can be directed to the state health department between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (800) 648-6942.

The state noted it's working with the farm to reimburse customers who have purchased the beef. 

For information about Michigan’s PFAS response, visit