Microplastic contamination of packaged meat: occurrence and associated risks

, Kedzierski Mikaël, Lechat Benjamin, Sire Olivier, Le Maguer Gwénaël, Le Tilly Véronique, Bruzaud Stéphane.

Food trays, one of the most commonly used packaging, are often made from extruded polystyrene (XPS). Recently, quantities of millimetre-sized particles of this material are trapped between the meat they contain and the sealing film. The purpose of this study is to identify the chemical nature of these particles and to quantify them. For this purpose, this study focuses on meat products (chicken) packed in extruded polystyrene trays (230x140x20mm). Products from four different brands (named A, B, C, and D) were purchased at a local supermarket (n=3 by brand). A dissection microscope (30X magnification) was used to count fibres and potential MP-XPS. The spectra of all recovered fragments were acquired using an Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared microspectrometer (ATR-FTIR Lumos, Bruker). The results showed that XPS microplastics (MP-XPS) contaminate food products at a level ranging from 4.0 to 18.7 MP-XPS/kg of packaged meat. Analysis showed that these microplastics were likely to come from the XPS trays. These particles are difficult to remove by mere rinsing and are probably cooked before being consumed. However, at this stage, it is not clear from the scientific literature whether there is a potential risk to humans associated with the ingestion of MP-XPS. Based on the average French yearly consumption of meat, the mass of XPS observed inside the packaging and potentially ingested per year was calculated, the potentially ingested mass of XPS could reach a maximum between 19.7 mg/y and 511 mg/y. Only a few scientific studies report the presence of microplastics that contaminate food. This study, by assessing the presence of microplastics on the surface of meat products, extends the state of knowledge on the contamination of human food by microplastics.

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