Nearly four in five meat and dairy products from Dutch farm animals contained microplastics in a small-scale study from the Free University of Amsterdam. The study was commissioned by the Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF), which suggested a possible cause was what cows and pigs are being fed.
‘This study raises serious concerns about the contamination of our food chain with microplastics,’ said Maria Westerbos, director of PSF, in a press release.
‘It is also clear that farmers are not responsible for this. It seems that…former food products, including from supermarkets, are processed into livestock feed with packaging and all. This is not only detrimental to animal welfare, but perhaps also to us. Almost every steak and burger probably contains small pieces of plastic.’
The PSF calls the figures from the small study ‘shocking’: all 12 samples of feed pellets and shredded feed tested were found to contain plastic. Conversely, no contamination was found in fresh food.
But seven of the eight beef samples tested were found to contain plastic particles, while five of the eight pork samples contained at least one type of plastic. Plastic was also found in 18 of the 25 milk samples tested. If the study findings apply on a larger scale, much cow and pig meat, blood and milk could contain plastic.
Eco-toxicologist Dr Heather Leslie, co-author of the study said, ‘Animals are capable of absorbing at least some of the plastic particles they are exposed to in their habitat. This study should encourage further investigation into the full extent of exposure and any associated risks.’
Leslie said producing plastic-free feed for animals may be one way to improve exposure to plastic particles in livestock.
‘The Netherlands is the largest export country of meat in Europe,’ adds Westerbos. ‘We export a lot of meat to the UK, Germany and China. Are we feeding these countries plastic?’
The Plastic Soup Foundation has started a petition to the minister of agriculture, nature, and food quality to assure consumers that the Dutch food chain is plastic-free and to see what priority is being given to potential plastic in cattle feed.
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