Contaminants in Traditional Foods

A contaminant is a substance found in a place where it should not be. Industrial contaminants may or may not be harmful, depending on the type and amount. They cannot be seen, smelled or tasted in traditional food, so how do we know they are there? Monitoring the health of wildlife helps us to look for the effects of contaminants, but animal health is only affected when contaminant levels are quite high. In most cases, this is not true in the North.

Analyzing contaminants in samples tells us how much is in the animal and how much is in the parts eaten by people.


Kuhnlein HV and HM Chan (2000) Environment and contaminants in traditional food systems of Northern Indigenous Peoples. Ann. Rev. Nutr. 20:595-626.
Kuhnlein, H.V., Chan, H.M., Receveur, O. and G. Egeland. 2002. Canadian Arctic Indigenous Peoples, traditional food systems and POPs. In: Fenge, T. and Downey, D. (Eds). Northern Lights Against POPs: Combatting Toxic Threats at the Top of the World. McGill-Queen’s University Press. pp. 22-40.

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