Researchers from the VU University Amsterdam discovered microplastics in meat and milk from Dutch cows and pigs. They also discovered trace amounts of at least three types of plastic in the blood of all 12 cows and 12 pigs studied. The study was small in scope, but the results were “shocking,” according to the Plastic Soup Foundation, which commissioned it.

Cows in a stable – Credit: Photo: vpardi/DepositPhotos

In addition, the researchers discovered at least one type of plastic in seven of the eight beef samples tested, as well as five of the eight pork pieces. Microplastics were found in eighteen of the twenty-five milk samples tested.

The researchers believe the microplastics got into the pigs and cows through contaminated feed. They found no detectable plastic particles in the fresh food they tested. They did, however, find microplastics in all twelve samples of feed pellets and shredded animal feed tested.

“This study raises serious concerns about microplastic contamination of our food chain,” said Maria Westerbos, executive director of the Plastic Soup Foundation. She went on to say that “farmers are not to blame.” According to Westerbos, some leftover batches from the food industry appear to be “processed into animal feed, packaging and all.” According to the foundation, “virtually every steak and hamburger” contains small pieces of plastic.

Those assumptions were not confirmed by the VU researchers. The Amsterdam researchers cautioned against drawing too broad conclusions due to the small size of their study. Their findings were dubbed “a first indication that plastic particles are present in detectable concentrations in modern animal feed, the animals that consume it, and farm products.” The study is also inconclusive on the dangers of microplastics in food. Further research into the extent of the exposure and potential risks, according to the VU researchers, is desirable.

As a precaution, the government, according to the Plastic Soup Foundation, should ensure that the food chain is completely plastic-free. Minister of Agriculture Henk Staghouwer must work on this, according to the organization, which has also launched a petition on the subject. According to the Plastic Soup Foundation, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) should also enforce it more strictly.

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