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Microplastics in foods

On the basis of current scientific knowledge, the European Food Safety Authority and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment do not consider microplastic particles in foods to pose risks to human health. The World Health Organization does not consider microplastics in drinking water to be a health risk at present. It can be assumed that the large majority of microplastic particles are excreted from the body. However, further research and reliable data are required before a conclusive risk assessment of microplastic particles in foods is possible. Where microplastic particles are potential carriers of pollutants, the legally binding EU maximum levels or national maximum levels for residues and contaminants apply for numerous pollutants. If these maximum levels are exceeded, the foods cannot be placed on the market.

Scientific literature contains evidence of microplastic particles in several foods such as salt, mussels and drinks. Routine tests by the Länder authorities responsible for food inspections and studies commissioned by the food industry regarding traces of microplastics in foods do not indicate increased levels. There are a number of pathways for microplastic particles to be absorbed in foods. However, there is no reliable data about composition, particle size and levels. It is possible that consumption of fish and seafood can affect human health because microplastic particles have been detected in these organisms. The particles have primarily been found in the digestive system of fish. At present there is no data indicating microplastic particles in muscle meat, i.e. the generally edible parts of fish. It has not yet been established whether eating fish and seafood can lead to significant absorption. Further research is required in this area.

Research projects are being carried out and expert reports drawn up, for example by a range of government research institutions such as the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, the Federal Institute of Hydrology, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the Federal Environment Agency. The focus is on microplastic particle levels in the marine environment, the effects of microplastics on marine animals and how microplastics find their way into foods of marine origin. These institutions are also working on the development of validated analytical detection methods for different matrices in which plastics and microplastics may be found such as water, soil, air and foods.

Last updated: 30.05.2022

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