Plastics on your Plate

Evidence is mounting that much of our food (e.g. from seafood to milk and beer) is contaminated with plastic as well as additives. Our food gets in contact with plastics throughout the supply chain, yet it is unclear how the different supply chain stages contribute to the buildup. We posit that contamination within the most obvious parts of the life cycle, e.g. packaging, is probably only the tip of the iceberg, mainly because micro- and nanoplastics are omnipresent in the environment. Since plastic production is only expected to rise, this will likely lead to wider plastic contamination and substance migration into food in the future. This often shocks citizens, whose main agency forms are as voters and consumers.

However, it is still unclear what the impact is on human health and how this may affect food choice and consumer behaviour. The pathways of plastics, along with additives, into the food are beginning to be understood for the packaging stage, however, they are not well understood for other stages, making it difficult to mitigate the contamination pathways.

Hence, this project aims to map out where and how plastic enters the Dutch consumer food system and what its health impacts are, and what options society has to reduce the exposure to plastic pollution.

The goal of the project is to support people in (e.g.) Utrecht as a pilot study population by;

  1. understanding how much plastic enters and  leaves our bodies via food (next to other sources of plastic exposure to our bodies)
  2. understand the health implications of plastic exposure in humans and farm animals, and,
  3. to trace back the use and potential contamination over the supply chain, and explore how diets and food type may affect the exposure to plastics. This builds improved understanding of contamination pathways and health impacts.

Through increasing awareness and knowledge of Utrechters, the project aims to understand and inform citizen agency to help make the food chain gradually less plastic-intensive.