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Environmental chemical contamination of food

Science | Researchers
Research Spotlight: Environmental chemical contamination of food

A recent paper reviews the sources of chemical contaminants in food around the world and how contamination can be monitored and prevented in future.


Chemical contamination is a major global food safety issue, with contamination occurring throughout the food chain and in food preparation, with potentially serious consequences for human health.

In a review published in Journal of Toxicology, Dr. Lesa Thompson and Dr. Wageh Darwish, from Hokkaido University, studied the current literature on food contamination to assess the major sources of contamination as well as the monitoring and remediation strategies currently in place. Studies show that chemical contaminants can come from the natural environment or from anthropogenic sources. These can be organic or inorganic, from metals and plastics to electronic waste and even radioactive materials. Contamination can affect all types of food, including crops, livestock and seafood, as well as drinking water, and can enter the food chain at any point.

One of the major concerns highlighted by the authors is that of bioaccumulation, with contaminants building through the food chain, either from the soil to plants and then animals, or from water to seafood and fish. It is for this reason that they recommend regular monitoring of environmental and human samples, as well as food itself, in order to identify possible sources of contamination and detect any concerning levels of exposure in humans.

The authors conclude that although contamination during food preparation may be down to the individual, in the case of chemical contaminants in particular, food safety is ultimately the responsibility of regulatory bodies, with regard to monitoring contaminants, enacting measures and enforcing legislation. They recommend that chemical contamination of food is considered on both a national and international scale in order to protect humans from harm via local contamination and prevent contamination in the global food trade.

Read the full article here >>


This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration by David Jury.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2020, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.