4 Simple Ways to Reduce Microplastics in Food

Fingers with small pieces of plastic on them

It’s alarming how often we eat microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic, less than 0.2 inches). Americans consume a whopping 39,000 to 52,000 particles of microplastics per year1.

Plastic takes a long journey to get inside the human body. Plastic garbage degrades and enters the ocean. When we eat certain seafood, these microplastics are passed onto us. Tiny parts of plastic break off from packaging, food storage containers, and processing. These end up in our bodies when we consume the food. 

Experts have classified many of the chemicals in plastic as toxic and harmful to human health. Microplastics may increase the risk of chronic disease and impair immune health. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to reduce your exposure to microplastics. 

Ditch The Plastic 

Plastic water bottles, tap water, frozen TV dinners, to-go containers, plastic food storage containers, and plastic storage bags are all sources of microplastics. Avoid heating plastic such as microwaving food in plastic or putting plastic in the dishwasher. Safer alternatives are filtered water, stainless-steel water bottles, glass storage containers, reusable silicone storage bags, and frozen TV dinners that are not stored in plastic such as Primal Plate

Reduce Mollusks Intake 

Mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops) can pack a big microplastic punch. Mollusks filter water and plastic particles build up in their bodies. Consider reducing mollusks in your diet. If you eat them, avoid ones sourced from Asia and the Mediterranean Ocean which have high levels of microplastic contamination. For sustainable seafood choices, check out Seafood Watch

Choose Safe Sea Salt 

The type of sea salt and location it comes from are important. Sea salt from the Pacific Ocean, Spain, China, Taiwan, and Pink Himalayan Sea Salt have the highest levels of microplastics2,3. Instead choose sea salt from Turkey, Italy, and Croatia which have the lowest contamination2.

Minimize Beer, Sugar, and Honey 

Drinking one beer a day can expose a person to 520-1,800 particles per year. Beer from North America is high in microplastics from the water used to make it and/or processing methods4. Sugar is another source of microplastics from the packaging and processing method. Imported sugar is higher in microplastics than domestic sugar. Honeybees carry plastic back to the hive and contaminate the honey. Minimize beer intake and use sweeteners such as maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or date syrup. 

Making the right food and beverage choices can help decrease microplastic consumption. To reduce your microplastic intake, reach out to Bastyr Center for Natural Health to schedule an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians at (206) 834-4100. Let’s work together to decrease your microplastic exposure one bite or drink at a time! 

Written by: Anglina Andriola, Dietetic Intern

Reference List 

  1. Cox KD, Covernton GA, Davies HL, et al. Human Consumption of microplastic. Environmental Science & Technology. 2019;53(12): doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b01517 
  2. Kwon JH, Kim JW, Pham TD, et al. Microplastics in Food: A Review on Analytical Methods and Challenges. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(18):6710. Published 2020 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/ijerph17186710 
  3. Shruti VC, Pérez-Guevara F, Elizalde-Martínez I, et. Al. First study of its kind on the microplastic contamination of soft drinks, cold tea and energy drinks - Future research and environmental considerations. Science of The Total Environment.2020;726(138580): doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138580. 
  4. Kosuth M, Mason SA, Wattenberg EV. Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt. PLoS One. 2018;13(4):e0194970. Published 2018 Apr 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194970