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“Concerning” Level of Plastic Chemicals in Food—Even Organics

“Concerning” Level of Plastic Chemicals in Food—Even Organics
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More bad news when it comes to the contamination of our world with plastics.


  • Testing of common supermarket items has found that almost all foods contain plasticizer chemicals known as phthalates—even organic food.
  • Plastics and plastic chemicals have also been found in fresh produce.
  • Microplastic contamination of our food supply is a public health danger, but there are some things you can do to mitigate your risks.

When you buy food for yourself or your family, the last thing you’d expect is that you’re eating plastic chemicals. Yet testing from Consumer Reports (CR) has found plasticizers in almost every food they looked at from supermarkets, including organic products. Last year we reported that even fresh fruits and vegetables are contaminated with microplastics. This speaks to the ubiquity of microplastics and plasticizers in our environment, and with the growing body of research telling us how dangerous these chronic exposures can be, we need to be aware of how to best protect ourselves.

CR’s testing found phthalates, chemicals added to plastic to make it more flexible, in 99 percent of the supermarket and fast foods they tested. The levels did not correspond to a packaging type or particular food. Dairy products were no more or less free from contamination than prepared meals. Even organic food wasn’t safe from contamination—the highest phthalate levels CR found were in a can of Annie’s Organic cheesy ravioli. Cheerios were also found to have substantial levels of phthalates.

But the fact that levels did vary (Little Caesar’s pizza had considerably higher levels than Pizza Hut pizza, for example) shows that no matter how widespread the chemicals are, there are ways to reduce how much ends up in our food.

Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors, and microplastics that we now know are ubiquitous in our world are linked with all kinds of health problems. Endocrine disruptors are especially concerning because it doesn’t take much to have a big impact on our health. A small change in hormone concentration—the equivalent of one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools—is enough to have an effect on the human endocrine system, which impacts growth, metabolism, sleep, and other important bodily functions. Endocrine disruptors like phthalates have been linked with asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, and altered reproductive development. 

We’ve also written about the growing problem of microplastics in our environment and the consequences for human health. There are several ways in which humans are exposed to and ingest microplastics, with inhalation of indoor air and drinking water being the two dominant sources.

The health implications of these exposures are serious. Studies have found that airborne microplastics can accumulate in the lungs and may increase cancer risk. Animal and cell studies demonstrate that exposures to microplastics can result in inflammation, oxidative stress (which causes cell tissue to break down and DNA damage), and adverse effects on the immune system. That may be why microplastic contamination is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $250 billion in 2018.

There are several ways to reduce your exposure to plastics, though it will be impossible to eliminate your exposure completely:

  • Think about your plastic usage and how you might be able to reduce it e.g. not using throw away plastic items such as silverware and straws.
  • Substitute single use takeaway cups and bottles for your own stainless steel, bamboo or glass reusable cup and bottle.
  • Recycle plastic garbage where possible.
  • Buy a good water filter to remove the microplastics. Reverse osmosis systems are our preferred option as they remove most of the particles, but also the vast majority of chlorine, hormones and fluoride. Note that RO filtration also removes beneficial minerals, so you must remineralize the water which can be done in a variety of ways.
  • Don’t heat food or liquid in plastic containers, particularly in microwaves, due to the number of particles released into your food.
  • When buying clothes, try to buy natural fabrics as opposed to synthetic fabrics, which shed plastic microfibers. Natural fibers can be more expensive so why not check out your local charity shop and do a bit of recycling at the same time?
  • Use a washing bag to reduce microplastic pollution when washing synthetic fabrics.
  • Air dry clothes rather than using a tumble dryer, which increases the production of microfibers.
  • Dust and vacuum (use a vacuum with a HEPA filter) regularly to reduce the accumulation of microplastics found in households.
  • Buy plastic-free cosmetics and personal care products. Check the labels for products containing plastic microbeads.
  • Ditch teabags and use organic, fairly traded loose-leaf with an infuser or old-fashioned teapot. Yep, you heard that right. Many tea bags contain plastic, which when heated can release billions of microplastics into your tea. Even so-called biodegradable tea bags, you know, the posh silky ones, are made from a type of GMO plastic and they’re not silk at all!

7 thoughts on ““Concerning” Level of Plastic Chemicals in Food—Even Organics

  • PaJay

    These days large amounts of microplastics are sprayed on us by our governments with their spatial geoengineering programs, known to some of us “conspiracy theorists” as chemtrails.

  • Sarvopama Dasa

    The power brokers who claim that population is a problem like it that estrogenic, microplastic nanoparticles are negatively affecting fertility.

  • Karol Long

    We are killing ourselves! And her planet. This Hass to stop soon or it will be too late. Then none of these greedy people will be able to have other people work for them grow food for them and we will be so polluted we can all die together, and their money will be what? Absolutely nothing. They too will die.

  • Joe Weinstein

    Your second recommendation reads:
    ‘Substitute single use takeaway cups and bottles for your own stainless steel, bamboo or glass reusable cup and bottle.’

    Do you really want us to use MORE single-use plastics and to NOT use durable non-plastic reusable durable cups and bottles?

    Or did you simply forget that in standard English ‘substitute X for Y’ means the same thing as ‘replace Y by X’ ‘?

    • The regulators are in bed with the corporations they’re supposed to regulate, so unless you can give them more money than the corporations, the regulators won’t help.

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