The recall of food containing plastic contamination has shown a 32% increase since 2016 according to recent studies of official reports. When excluding recently added sources the increase on a like for like basis is 21%.
The reports covering North America, Europe and Australasia indicated a rise of +37% across the EU and a 10% increase in North America.
When the recorded events are analysed the most significant food sectors are the Meat and Meat Products sector which matches the Grain, Cereals and bakery products sector at 14% of the total
The significant change from 2016 is that recalls of Meat and Meat Products has seen a threefold increase, but on the other hand the Poultry meat & poultry meat products sector has seen a 20% decline similar to the dairy sector.
To identify sources is still challenging because it is still common practice to describe the contaminants generically as “plastic pieces or fragments (of a given color and texture).”
There are an increasing number of more detailed descriptions identifying probable sources.
For example there were four cases where process tools and equipment were identified including plastic moulds and blending paddles. Raw materials were identified as the source of three recalls involving plastic pieces mixed in with potatoes that were processed with the finished product, plastic granules mixed with grain and some casing that held bulk sausage meat that ended up in the packaged product. Personal protective equipment accounted for over 10% of the identified sources and included a plastic hairpin and blue pieces of a pair of safety goggles.
The oddballs involved an in-process small temp monitor that appeared in a smoothie, and some sharp white plastic pieces that migrated into confectionery and were thought to be pieces of lollipop sticks used to make another product in the factory.
The biggest identified source was packaging and this represented almost half of the identified sources and about 10% of the total.
The prize find was a broken piece of a plastic pen in some chicken nuggets out of Canada that were recalled “in case there were more”. Needless to say these ‘finds’ were not made of detectable plastic .