Study exposes new contamination concern in seafood


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
September 28, 2015

A new study is suggesting that trash produced by humans may be finding its way into the seafood Americans eat, including particles of plastic and fibers.

The study, conducted by the University of California at Davis and the University of Hasanuddin in Indonesia, found enough waste in sampled seafood, both in Malaysia and California, to prompt the authors to recommend changes in waste management practices.

“This is a wake-up call to the fact that our waste management systems are not as tight and advanced as they should be, and that might be coming back to haunt us through the food chain,” Chelsea Rochman, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis, and lead author of the study, told the magazine Popular Science.

The study tested the digestives tracts of samples of various species of seafood collected both from California and Indonesia, including tilapia, mackerel, red snapper, Albacore tuna and Chinook salmon, along with Pacific oysters. In the Indonesia samples, the study found particles of human refuse, described in the report as “anthropogenic debris,” in 28 percent of individual fish and 55 percent of all species. In the California samples, the study found debris in 25 percent of individual fish sampled, 33 percent of shellfish and 67 percent of all species.

In Indonesia, testers found particles of plastic, while in the United States, the samples found traces of fibers. The study’s authors estimated the fish ingested the particles, and that the particles may be leaching toxic chemicals into the marine creatures, posing a threat to human health.

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