Nature food study finds gaps in food system plastics research


Systematic scoping review assesses the research literature covering plastic’s effects on human health, the environment, and food security/economics through the entire food system from 2000 through 2018; includes over 3,300 studies; found majority of previous research focused on food security/economics; identified gaps related to studies on the effect of plastics on human health, meta-analyses, and research within low-income nations

On February 18, 2021, peer-reviewed journal Nature Food published a systematic scoping review by Joe Yates et al. from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the effects of plastics in the food system. The review assessed the number of research papers published from 2000 through 2018 assessing the impacts of plastic on human health, food security and economics, or the environment, at any point in the food life cycle from agricultural production to waste disposal. Over 3,300 studies were included. The authors found the majority of work during that time period “had at least one outcome related to food security and economics” (75%), followed by human health (which includes food nutrient content, food contamination, and medical effects, 48%), and the environment (8%). Few studies in the reviewed literature (2–4%) directly investigated the effects of food system plastics on human health such as chemical presence in urine samples or long-term health effects. According to the interactive evidence map published with the paper, 117 studies (3.5%) looked at some aspect of the relationship between plastic food packaging and human health.

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Food Packaging Forum, 12 May 2021