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Pilot study reveals plastic in meat and dairy products

8 July 2022
A new exploratory study conducted by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has found that some samples of meat, blood and milk from farm animals contain plastics.

The study was performed by researchers from the department of Environment and Health, which, among other things, focuses on measuring the level of (micro)plastics in humans and the environment. A study on the exposure of farm animals to plastics has so far been lacking. This study, funded by the Plastic Soup Foundation and others, is a pilot study.

The VU scientists looked into the presence of six different types of plastic polymers, also known as the building blocks of plastic, in eight samples of beef and eight samples of pork. The researchers also tested 25 milk samples, the blood of 12 cows, 12 pigs and the cattle feed. Seven out of eight tested beef samples contained plastic polymers, while five out of eight pork samples contained at least one type of plastic. Plastic was also found in 18 out of 25 tested milk samples, but the amount was too low in 14 out of the 18 samples to be measured accurately.

More research is necessary
The possible cause for this could be the food for cows and pigs: all twelve samples of feed pellets and shredded feed contained plastic. None of the researched plastic polymers were found in the five fresh food samples.

Ike van der Veen, first author of the study: “Only a very small number of samples have been analysed in this exploratory study. The results of the study therefore constitute a first indication of the presence of plastics in meat, blood and milk of cows and pigs. More research, including many more samples, is needed to determine the exact amount of plastics and how often plastics in general are found in farm animals and products. Out of the results of this study, no conclusions can be drawn on any health risks to animals or human consumption; it only provides a first indication of the presence of plastics in raw, unprocessed meat and in the milk, blood and feed samples.”