Invisible Invaders: Uncovering the Hidden Microplastics in Processed Foods

Step into the alarming world of microplastics lurking in our processed foods. This eye-opening post explores the sources of these tiny pollutants, their potential health impacts, and practical steps to minimize your exposure. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from these invisible invaders by making informed dietary choices.


Kate Thomas

4/15/20243 min read

Modern living has caused microplastics to emerge as a silent but pervasive environmental issue, infiltrating ecosystems, water sources, and, most concerningly, our food chain. While we might be aware of the plastic pollution cluttering our oceans and landscapes, many of us are oblivious to the microscopic plastic particles hiding in our everyday foods, particularly processed items. A 2019 publication from the American Chemical Society, suggests that on average an adult may eat roughly 150 plastic particles a day and children 120 particles, implying that every adult meal may contain about 50 particles of microplastics. This figure can increase significantly when considering inhalation of microplastic particles through the air, potentially adding thousands more particles to the annual total. The full health implications of microplastic ingestion are still being studied, but the pervasive presence of these particles in our environment and bodies is a growing concern for researchers and public health officials alike. Let's peel back the layers on this hidden hazard and discover how to safeguard our health against these minuscule but mighty invaders.

What Are Microplastics?

A Tiny but Significant Threat:

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters in length. They can be primary, designed to be small (like microbeads in cosmetics), or secondary, resulting from the breakdown of larger plastic items. Due to their tiny size, microplastics easily make their way into the environment, and ultimately, our food. These tiny plastic fragments less than 5mm in size, find their way into the human body through the consumption of contaminated seafood, bottled water, and even from household dust.

How Do They End Up in Processed Foods?

The Journey from Pollution to Plate:

Microplastics infiltrate our food through a variety of channels. Seafood is a significant source, as marine life ingests microplastics from polluted waters. However, processed foods become contaminated in more insidious ways. Plastics used in agriculture, packaging, and even the air can contribute to the presence of microplastics in food items. The processing and packaging stages of food production are particularly prone to introducing microplastics into our diet.

The Health Implications of Microplastics

An Unwelcome Ingredient:

The long-term health effects of microplastic consumption are still under investigation, but the potential implications are concerning. Studies suggest that microplastics can accumulate in the body, potentially leading to inflammation, hormonal imbalance, and even an increased risk of certain cancers. Their ability to absorb and carry harmful pollutants and chemicals raises additional concerns about their impact on human health.

Reducing Exposure to Microplastics in Your Diet

Knowledge is Power:

While completely avoiding microplastics might be impossible, there are steps we can take to minimize our exposure, especially when it comes to processed foods:

- Opt for Fresh, Whole Foods: Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains that are less likely to be contaminated with microplastics compared to their processed counterparts.

- Reduce Use of Plastic Packaging: Whenever possible, choose products packaged in glass or paper, or buy in bulk to decrease the amount of plastic packaging that can contribute to microplastic contamination.

- Prepare Meals at Home: Cooking at home allows you to control the quality of ingredients and reduce reliance on heavily processed foods.

- Stay Informed: Keeping abreast of research and developments in the field of microplastics can help you make informed choices about your diet and lifestyle.


The issue of microplastics in processed foods is a complex challenge that reflects the broader problems of plastic pollution and environmental stewardship. By making mindful choices about the foods we eat and advocating for stricter regulations on plastic use and food safety, we can help mitigate the impact of these invisible invaders. It's not just about protecting our health; it's about preserving the integrity of our environment for future generations. Let's commit to being part of the solution, one meal at a time.


Human Consumption of Microplastics

Kieran D. Cox, Garth A. Covernton, Hailey L. Davies, John F. Dower, Francis Juanes, and Sarah E. Dudas

Environmental Science & Technology 2019 53 (12), 7068-7074