Food pollution is the presence of toxic chemicals, be it elements, compounds, or biological contaminants which are not found naturally in the food or which are above their background level. Climate change and food safety are two of the most important issues today. Soil and water pollution, have been directly linked with food pollution that represent a serious threat to human health (Envirnmentalpollutioncenter, n.d.).
Food pollution is a serious matter of concern as it can cause mild or severe harm, and can have heavy consequences with the primary resource of this earth, the human resource. It can cause a range of disabilities and disease from nervous system, genetic mutation, hormonal and metabolic changes to various types of cancers (Kumar &Kaur, 2014). Also, if highly polluted food is consumed, it can cause serious food poisoning and even death, which shows the level of significance of addressing this threat. In the U.S, 70 million cases of food poisoning are recorded every year and approximately 5000 deaths (Darwish, 2019).
Envirnmentalpollutioncenter (n.d.) explains that there are various causes of food pollution through environmental pollutants; basically any pollutant which has come into contact with food has the potential to pollute it. Food can even be contaminated with toxic strains of bacteria and virus from the route of irrigation, groundwater or soil, which can only be treated with high temperatures. Chemical toxins can be found in food in various situations-
The situation has become worse as food safety risks and environmental pollution have created a risk for nutrition for a large population. Lack of water availability, over application of the pesticides and environmental chemical pollutants are considered as the most potent risk factors for food pollution (Darvis, 2019). Additionally, the lack of water quantity and quality has led countries to turn to long term waste water usage for irrigation which has resulted to serious crop pollution (Oskarson, 2012). Some areas are worst affected by this factor as heavy metals have polluted the land and agriculture. It is therefore, the need of the hour to address the threats to food safety because of such pollution related to pesticides and heavy metal. The increased use of pesticides for high yield of agriculture and waste water irrigation has seriously impacted the health of the people which is proving to be carcinogenic and has created cancer villages in various parts of the world, with china having around 400 cancer villages, in the Indian state of Punjab, uranium poisoning from increased use of pesticides has made it the cancer capital of India(Kumar &Kaur, 2014).
Pollution in the environment comes into contact with the food chain by way of animals and plants that come into contact with environmental pollution and serve as transporters of the pollutants. For example, pollution in water accumulates and concentrates into fish and other marine animals. Excess accumulation of the fertilizers is called eutrophication (Raman, 2017). For example, when an affected fish is transferred through the food web and eventually consumed by a human being, the effect of the pollutants in the consumed fish has a multiplied impact on the person who has eaten the fish. This concentration of the food web will be more acute with the length of the food chain. That is the reason why intoxication from environmental pollution through food can be very serious for human beings. In toxicology, the greater challenge today is the prediction of the risks associated with the chemical mixtures, as they are found in abundance today in daily life. Exposure to contaminants with diet takes place as mixture, not as individual compounds. Two recent models for study of these mixture compounds are concentration addition and independent action. One recent example is of genetically modified food manufactured primarily by Monsanto and Bayer (Raman, 2017).
A new issue in the food and environment contamination is of micro plastics, which are less than 5 mm in diameter. They come from various sources from large plastics degrading into smaller ones, to using micro plastics in a variety of products. This can cause cancer, immunity problems and reproductive system diseases. These particles are not filtered through water filtration systems, and are consumed by animals and humans (Oceanservice, n.d.). According to Wedocs (2015) these micro plastics made their first appearance in personal care products in 1965.Uranium contamination of water is also a serious threat which leads to serious kidney diseases. In 2013, groundwater authorities in New South Wales detected heavy amounts of salts and uranium 20 times above the safe limit in the aquifers. Also in Punjab state of India, Uranium has been found well above the safe limits (Ansoborlo & Brat, 2015).
A famous case of Minamata disease in Japan caused mercury poisoning by consumption of fishe in the 1950s, Endosulphan, a pesticide found to cause cancer was banned by a few countries in 2011, in 2013 aflatoxin contamination in Europe and United States resulted in recalling of food products by US FDA which caused hepatic (kidney) failure (Barbosa &Vethak, 2018), arsenic poisoning incident in Japan, in December 2015 United States encountered E.coli (a bacterium) outbreak which cause severe diarrhea problems (Darvis, 2019), monosodium glutamate and higher lead levels in food in 2015 led to a detection of new pollutants unknown hitherto (Kumar &Kaur, 2014).
The literature review covered food contamination from various sources and to what intensity these contaminants have entered into today’s food chains. Various incidents and cases have been discussed which paved the way for a regular research in food chain pollution as this is a very important subject owing to the fact that food is the basic need of every living being. Today numerous applications of various chemicals are found in day-to-day life usage which has led to an increased risk of further substances which may be causing contamination in human food are yet to find out.
Ansoborlo, E., Jacobs, L. & Prat, O. (2015).Uranium in drinking-water: A unique case of guideline value increases and discrepancies between chemical and radiochemical guidelines. Environment International, 77, 1-4 DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2014.12.011
Barboza, L., Lavorente, B., Lundebye, A., Guilhermino, L. & Vethak, A. (2018) Marine microplastic debris: An emerging issue for food security, food safety and human health. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 133, 336-348.
Darwish, W. (2019).Environmental pollution and food safety: health hazard analysis and human health risk assessment. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/si/384157/
Envirnmentalpoolutioncenter.org (n.d.) What is food pollution. Retrieved from: https://www.environmentalpollutioncenters.org/food/
Kumar, G., & Kaur, A. (2014). Factors responsible for cancer in Bathinda: Socio-economic impacts. International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences, 3(8), 91-103.
Lu, Y., Song, S., Wang, R., Liu, Z., Meng, J., Sweetman, A. J., ... & Wang, T. (2015). Impacts of soil and water pollution on food safety and health risks in China. Environment International, 77, 5-15.
NOAA. (2020) What are micro plastics. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html
Oskarsson, A. (2012) Environmental contaminants and food safety. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3305716/
Pareira, J. (2015)Environmental issues and international relations, a new global (dis)order - the role of international relations in promoting a concerted international system. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional. Retrieved from https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292015000100191
Phalen, R. (2014). The particulate air pollution controversy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659607/
Raman, R. (2017). The impact of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in modern agriculture: A review. GM Crops & Food, 8(4), 195-208.
Wedocs.UNEP.org (2015) Plastics in cosmetics. Retrieved from http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/21754/PlasticinCosmetics2015Factsheet.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
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