On June 23, 2016 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a scientific statement on the “Presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood.” The scientific statement was requested by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and prepared by EFSA’s Panel for Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel). EFSA defines microplastics as ranging from 0.1 to 5,000 μm and nanoplastics from approximately 1 to 100 nm (0.001–0.1 μm). According to the statement, there is no legislation for microplastics and nanoplastics as contaminants in food and occurrence data are limited or non-existent. Microplastics can contain additives and contaminants such as phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and metals. The CONTAM Panel estimates that “the presence of microplastics in seafood would have a small effect on the overall exposure to additives or contaminants.” The CONTAM Panel also recommends further development of analytical methods for microplastics and nanoplastics “in order to assess their presence, identity and to quantify their amount in food.” Further, there is a need for research on toxicokinetics and toxicity, including local effects in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, as well as degradation of microplastics and potential formation of nanoplastics in the human GI tract.
In an interview with EFSA, Peter Hollman of CONTAM’s working group involved in the development of the scientific statement considers ingestion of microplastics “unlikely” to be harmful to consumers.
EFSA (June 23, 2016). “Microplastics and nanoplastics in food – an emerging issue.”
CONTAM (June 23, 2016). “Presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood.”