A Swiss consumer affairs television programme has found small pieces of plastic in 20 different brands of honey. Honey from Switzerland had the highest concentrations. While experts disagree on whether the plastic is harmful to human health, the results show that plastic pollution is ever-present in our natural environment.
According to the “Kassensturz” programme aired last week, the plastic microparticles come mostly from cosmetics and toothpastes. These find their way from the water system or air into the nature. The plastic is then deposited in pollen and ingested by the bee population. Richard Wyss, a beekeepers’ association representative, told the programme that the hives themselves may be a source of some of the plastic found in the honey, explaining that bees use whatever they find when building their hives, including Styrofoam which is a good insulator in cold weather.
The results challenge the general assumption that honey is a natural product, explains Professor Gerhard Liebezeit, who analysed the test samples for the programme. “The finding of plastic shows that we are polluting a natural product with man-made substances.”
The analysis found between 50 to 210 particles of plastic per kilo of honey. Swiss honey had the highest concentrations, while an Italian brand had the lowest.
Less clear is whether these plastic particles pose a risk to human health. Michal Beer, head of the Federal Food Safety Office told Kassensturz that the plastic concentrations are “minimal” and could be found in other food, too. But Hans-Petter Hutter from the University of Vienna disagrees. Although there is no risk of death, “it is not credible to say that these small amounts pose no danger”, especially as its there is insufficient data to show how much plastic we ingest each day from other foods, water and even the air we breathe.