New study claims that plastic is widely used in the food supply.

A new study led by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, found that micro and nanoplastics are prevalent in our food supply and may be affecting global food safety and security.

Building on previous research that primarily tracked plastics in fish, this study is one of the first to examine the academic literature on microplastics from a food safety and food security risk perspective.

It shows that plastics and their added substances are available in a range of forms in fish as well as in numerous items including meat, chicken, rice, water, removed food and drink, and, surprisingly, new produce.

Dr. Jordi Nelis, a CSIRO analytical chemist who specializes in food safety and is the lead author of the paper, stated that one of the primary ways these plastics enter the human food chain is through food processing and packaging. Other ways include ingestion, as demonstrated by the fish studies. The study has been published in the TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry journal.

“For example, fresh food may be plastic-free when picked or caught, but it may contain plastics by the time it is handled, packaged, and delivered to us.”

Dr. Jordi Nelis, analytical chemist, food safety specialist and lead author of the paper.

“New nourishment, for instance, can be sans plastic when it’s picked or gotten, but it contains plastic when it’s been dealt with, bundled, and advances toward us,” Dr. Nelis said.

“Micro and nanoplastics can be deposited on food by cutting boards, cutting machines, and plastic wrap.” To manage food safety and security, this study highlights the necessity of understanding what plastic could end up in food,” he stated.

Biosolids derived from wastewater treatment are yet another significant channel through which these contaminants can enter our agricultural system.

Although biosolids are an excellent source of fertilizer for agricultural land, they can also contain plastic particles from a variety of sources, including the washing of synthetic clothing.

The structure of the soil may be altered over time as a result of these particles building up in the soil, which could have an impact on crop production, food security, and ecosystem resilience. For instance, plastic materials can “stunt” the great microscopic organisms in the dirt into thinking they are the foundations of plants, meaning the plants end up with fewer of the supplements they need.

In addition, the study talked about how additives in plastics that make plastic work in today’s world can leach into our environment and potentially contaminate our food supply. Added substances that make plastic adaptable or impervious to UV radiation, for instance, can incorporate fire retardants, weighty metals, phthalates, hardeners, or other synthetic mixtures.

Although more research is required to fully understand the effects on health, there are currently no definitive studies that demonstrate that micro- and nanoplastics in the environment cause harm to humans.

Improved analytical methods for monitoring, evaluating, and determining safe levels in food, drinking water, and agroecosystems are also required to better comprehend the effects of plastics and their additives on food safety and security.

“The key missing data is deciding safe levels of microplastics. We right now don’t know precisely what the microplastic motion through the food framework is or which levels can be viewed as protected,” Dr. Nelis said.

He said there are things that buyers can do to help prevent miniature and nanoplastics from going through the climate.

“On average, Australians dispose of 100 kg of plastic waste every year, so utilize less plastic, particularly in the kitchen, and wash your garments somewhat less frequently on more limited cycles,” Dr. Nelis said.

By 2030, the CSIRO intends to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 80 percent.

More information: Joost L.D. Nelis et al, The measurement of food safety and security risks associated with micro- and nanoplastic pollution, TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2023.116993

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