Cooking & EatingYou may accidentally ingest plastic through food. For example, because of small pieces of plastic in products from the supermarket or maybe you have eaten the sticker with your apple. Can that hurt?
Every once in a while, supermarkets recall products because they may contain small pieces of plastic. Perhaps you had already eaten that product then. Or maybe you have ever taken a big bite of an apple and accidentally ate the sticker as well. Could happen, but could it hurt?
In any case, stickers on apples are not edible, says Tim Kievits of fruit growers’ cooperative FruitMasters. “All ingredients are food-safe, but not edible. But if you accidentally eat one, there is nothing to worry about because your body will excrete the sticker on its own.”
The glue used for the fruit stickers is also not harmful to your health, says Kievits. “Because the fruit sticker comes into direct contact with the product, the glue must be 100 percent safe by law. The testing is done by an independent institute. Any glue residue that remains on the apple is washable.”
Eco Fruit Stickers
The fruit world has experimented with paper stickers, but that turned out to be unsuccessful. Kievits: ,,Paper absorbs moisture. This can cause mold to form and the apple can get brown spots more quickly. In addition, the sticker tears faster, making it less easy to remove.”
But the fruit industry cannot do without stickers. They tell us in the supermarket what kind of apple we are dealing with, for example. Some apples are so difficult to take apart that even connoisseurs have to look very closely. ,,We were figuratively in our stomachs. 4 to 5 percent of the organic waste is polluted, partly due to fruit stickers. Many consumers throw fruit waste with sticker and all in the green bin. The stickers clog the installations and particles from the stickers end up in the environment as microplastics,” says Kievits.
To combat pollution, FruitMasters is one of the first in the sector to use eco-fruit stickers that are fully compostable. The stickers are free of plastic fibers and do not contain any toxic substances and fully compost if they end up with the organic waste.
The eco-fruit stickers are a step in the right direction, because the problem surrounding microplastics is huge. They can be found everywhere in our environment today. And they still end up in our food via soil, air or water. “Due to wear and tear, the floating plastic becomes smaller and smaller and ends up in our food. Microplastics are present in our seawater and therefore also in mussels, for example. That’s how we get it in,” says Wieke van der Vossen, food safety expert at the Nutrition Center.
No nutritional advice
According to Van der Vossen, it is difficult to determine exactly how much plastic we ingest. “Wageningen University has calculated that a week is just under a grain of salt, 0.004 milligrams. We are really talking about very small quantities.” Researchers are not yet sure whether it is dangerous for our health. ,,You will just poop most of it, just like those apple stickers. Only a very small part passes through the intestinal wall and is absorbed into the body. The effects of this are not yet known.”
The Nutrition Center therefore does not provide specific nutritional advice regarding plastic. “We don’t say: microplastics are in fish, so don’t eat fish. Fish is also very good for you.” What you can do, says Van der Vossen, is help prevent plastic from ending up in the environment, for example by drinking water from reusable bottles and using as little single-use plastic as possible.
Whether microplastics will prove to be harmful in a few years’ time remains to be seen. Van der Vossen: ,,But if there was a strong indication that it is bad for our health, it would have already surfaced.” Researchers did discover that microplastics sometimes take over the world with pathogenic bacteria, making it easier for diseases to spread. “Or they take other toxic substances with them, such as lead. So there are other kinds of dangers.”
But a reassurance: our body is exposed to hazardous substances all day long, our system just knows how to clean up most of it. “Your body breaks down a lot or you simply excrete it through your urine or feces,” says Van der Vossen.
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