Microplastics in Food: How to Reduce Your Intake

published on 09 March 2024

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles found everywhere, including our food. These particles come from various sources like plastic containers, beauty products, and even the clothes we wear. Eating microplastics can lead to health issues such as inflammation and hormone disruption. Here's how you can reduce your intake:

  • Choose Fresh Whole Foods: Opt for foods not wrapped in plastic.
  • Use Safer Food Storage Containers: Go for glass, steel, or silicone instead of plastic.
  • Filter Your Drinking Water: To remove microplastics and other contaminants.
  • Limit Plastic-Heavy Foods: Especially seafood known for higher microplastic content.
  • Guppyfriend Washing Bag: Use this bag to catch synthetic fibers during laundry.

To effectively tackle microplastics, supporting systemic solutions like extended producer responsibility, phasing out single-use plastics, enforcing stricter water quality standards, and incentivizing biodegradable packaging is crucial. While individual actions are important, pushing for broader changes can lead to significant reductions in microplastic pollution.

Primary vs Secondary Microplastics

There are two types of microplastics:

Primary microplastics are made small on purpose. They're often in health and beauty stuff like face washes or toothpaste to help clean. These tiny beads can easily go down the drain.

Secondary microplastics happen when big plastic items break down into tinier pieces over time. Stuff like plastic bottles, wrappers, and bags slowly fall apart, especially with help from the sun and water.

Microplastic Pathways into Food

Research has shown how microplastics can get into our food:

  • Water: Microplastics are in tap water, bottled water, beer, and salt. Farming and raising animals use a lot of water, letting microplastics get into fruits, veggies, and meat.
  • Seafood: Seafood often has a lot of microplastics. Shellfish like mussels and oysters clean lots of water and can hold onto these particles. Fish might eat microplastics directly or by eating other animals that have them.
  • Honey and Beer: Microplastics can get into honey and beer from the air or equipment used to make them.
  • Salt: Both sea salt and rock salt can have microplastics, probably from dirty water.
  • Tea: Tea leaves can soak up microplastics from the air, water, or soil while they grow. Using compost that has these plastics can also add to the problem.
  • Packaged Foods: Touching plastic packaging can let microplastics move into foods during moving, storing, and heating. Foods like bread and pasta that you buy in plastic can have them.

To cut down on microplastics, we need to make changes at every step - from cleaning the water used to grow food to using less plastic when we pack and sell food. As shoppers, we also need to make smart choices about what we eat and how we get it ready.

Health Risks of Microplastics

Microplastics can cause inflammation and hormone disruption, which may increase the risk of serious diseases over time. Here's what the research shows so far:


Inhaled or ingested microplastics may trigger inflammation, a key driver behind many diseases.

  • Animal studies show microplastics cause inflammation in the lungs and gut. This can harm organs over time.
  • Nanoplastics are tiny enough to enter organs and tissues, potentially causing systemic inflammation throughout the body.
  • One theory is that microplastics leach chemicals that irritate cells and trigger an inflammatory response. More research is needed in this area.

Hormone Disruption

The chemicals in plastic can disrupt hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormones.

  • This can affect reproduction, metabolism, growth and development, and more. Phthalates and BPA are well-known hormone disruptors found in plastic.
  • Early life exposure is especially concerning, as it may impact children's health and development.
  • One study found mice exposed to microplastics had altered cholesterol and reproductive hormone levels. The effects passed onto multiple generations of offspring.

While research is still emerging, microplastic exposure may contribute to:

  • Obesity: Hormone disruptors are linked to increased fat storage and weight gain over time.
  • Diabetes: BPA and phthalates may raise insulin resistance and inflammation.
  • Cancer: Estrogen-mimicking chemicals may increase hormone-influenced cancer risk like breast and prostate cancer.
  • Infertility: Endocrine disruptors can reduce sperm count and egg quality.
  • Neurodegenerative disease: Nanoplastics may cross the blood-brain barrier and cause brain inflammation.

More longitudinal studies in humans are needed to clarify microplastics' role in these chronic diseases. But given their hormone disrupting effects, reducing exposure is a wise precaution.

Strategies to Reduce Your Microplastic Intake

Choose Fresh Whole Foods

Try to eat more fresh foods like fruits, veggies, grains, beans, nuts, eggs, and meat that aren’t wrapped in plastic. Shopping for these items in bulk, instead of grabbing snacks that are already packaged, helps you avoid plastics. While it might not be possible to go completely plastic-free, picking fresh items is a good step to take less microplastics in.

Use Safer Food Storage Containers

Instead of plastic, use containers made of glass, steel, or silicone for storing your food at home. These materials don’t break down and mix tiny plastics into your food, especially when you warm them up. Plus, they don’t have the harmful chemicals that some plastics do, keeping your stored food safer.

Filter Your Drinking Water

Both bottled water and tap water might have microplastics. Using a water filter at home can remove more than 99% of these tiny plastics, along with other stuff like lead and chlorine. This gives you cleaner water to drink, cutting down on microplastics. Look for filters that are certified to catch very small particles.

Limit Plastic-Heavy Foods

Some foods, especially seafood like mussels, oysters, and shrimp, tend to have more microplastics because they pick them up from the water. Also, snacks and sweets that come in plastic packaging can have more plastics. Try to eat fresh fruits and veggies instead, or at least eat less of the plastic-heavy foods.

Guppyfriend Washing Bag


When you wash clothes made from synthetic materials like polyester, tiny fibers can come off and end up in the ocean. Using a Guppyfriend bag in your washing machine catches these fibers, stopping them from getting into the water. This is a simple way to help keep the water cleaner, even if you still have clothes made from these materials.


Supporting Systemic Solutions

While it's great to do our part in cutting down on microplastics, the big changes need to come from policies and big companies. Here's how we can make a big difference together.

Implement Extended Producer Responsibility

This idea makes companies take care of their products and packaging all the way to the end. It means they have to think about what happens to their stuff after we're done with it, encouraging them to make things that are easier to recycle or compost.

This approach has already helped get more things recycled in over 40 countries. If we do this with plastics, companies might come up with better packaging that doesn't add to the problem.

Phase Out Single-Use Plastics

Things like plastic bags, straws, and food containers are used once and then thrown away. Most of this doesn't get recycled and can turn into microplastics.

Some places have already banned or put a tax on plastic bags. Making rules against all single-use plastics can really cut down on plastic waste and stop it from getting into our water and food.

Enforce Stricter Water Quality Standards

Microplastics are in our tap water, bottled water, and even rain. Setting tougher rules for what's allowed in our water can help us drink less microplastics.

Better filters in water treatment and drinking water systems can catch microplastics before they come out of our taps.

Incentivize Innovation in Biodegradable Packaging

Most plastic sticks around for a very long time. We need new types of packaging that break down more easily.

Governments can help by giving money, grants, or prizes to encourage new ideas. Working together, scientists, business people, and officials can find ways to replace plastic with materials that are kinder to our planet.

Big changes in how we make, use, and throw away plastic are needed to really tackle the microplastics issue. While doing our bit is good, pushing for changes in laws and how businesses do things is key to solving this problem.


To lower your chances of eating or drinking microplastics, the best thing to do is choose fresh foods like fruits, veggies, grains, beans, eggs, and meat that aren't wrapped in plastic. Buying food in bulk, rather than packaged snacks, is another easy change.

For storing food at home, containers made of glass, steel, or silicone are better than plastic ones. Plastic can add chemicals to your food, especially if you warm them up. If you do use plastic containers, make sure they're good quality and don’t heat them in the microwave.

Using a water filter for your tap or bottled water can also help reduce microplastic consumption. Filters that catch very small particles can get rid of most microplastics in your water.

Eating less seafood and other foods that might have more microplastics is another tip, though it might not always be easy to do. Trying to eat a variety of foods can help.

On your own, using a Guppyfriend bag when washing clothes made from synthetic materials can stop tiny plastic fibers from getting into the water. Using travel clothes lines and reusable bags can also help reduce plastic waste.

But to really deal with microplastics, we need big changes from the people who make products and the rules that govern them. Making companies responsible for their packaging, stopping the use of throwaway plastics, making water cleaner, and encouraging new kinds of packaging that don’t harm the environment are all important steps.

While doing things on your own can lower how many microplastics you come into contact with, pushing for bigger changes in laws and business practices is the best way to tackle the problem of microplastics. By paying attention and getting involved, we can help make our future cleaner and healthier.

How can we reduce the intake of microplastics?


To take in fewer microplastics, try these steps:

  • Say no to single-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, forks, and water bottles.
  • Pick clothes made from natural materials instead of synthetic ones.
  • Use a special laundry bag or filter to catch tiny plastic fibers when washing clothes.
  • Stay away from skincare products with tiny plastic beads in them.

Stopping microplastics from getting into our water and food from the start is crucial. Simple changes to eco-friendlier options can help lower your exposure.

How do you flush microplastics out of your body?

While it's tough to get microplastics out once they're in your body, you can try:

  • Drink water from a filter instead of plastic bottles.
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers.
  • Use less plastic for storing food.
  • Eat fresher foods that don't come in plastic.
  • Clean your house with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
  • Choose personal care items without plastic bits.
  • Drink green tea, which might help get rid of toxins.

It's better to avoid eating or breathing in microplastics than to try to remove them later.

How can you reduce exposure to plastic in food?

To lower the chance of plastic getting into your food, you can:

  • Eat less fatty food because microplastics stick to fat.
  • Choose fresh foods that aren't packed in plastic.
  • Use kitchen tools made of wood, glass, or steel instead of plastic.
  • Drink from a reusable bottle made of glass or steel.

Picking fresh ingredients and avoiding plastic in food storage and prep can cut down on harmful plastic chemicals.

How do you avoid eating and drinking microplastics?

eating and drinking

Here are some tips to avoid microplastics in your food and drinks:

  • Skip single-use plastic bottles for water.
  • Heat food in glass containers, not plastic.
  • Put a water filter in your home to clean out microplastics.
  • Vacuum often with a HEPA filter.
  • Think twice about eating seafood because it has more microplastics.
  • Go for fresh veggies and fruits that aren't wrapped in plastic.

Choosing to use glass, steel, and other materials instead of plastic whenever possible can help you stay away from microplastics in what you eat and drink.

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