Presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood

Heather Wallace, Alexander Jan, Lars Barregård, Margherita Bignami, Sandra Ceccatelli, Bruce Cottrill, Michael Dinovi, Lutz Edler, Bettina Grasl-Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Isabelle Oswald, Annette Petersen, Vera Maria Rogiers, Martin Rose, Alain-Claude Roudot, Tanja Schwerdtle, Christiane VleminckxGünter Vollmer, Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain

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Following a request from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the EFSA Panel for Contaminants in the Food Chain was asked to deliver a statement on the presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood. Primary microplastics are plastics originally manufactured to be that size, while secondary microplastics originate from fragmentation. Nanoplastics can originate from engineered material or can be produced during fragmentation of microplastic debris. Microplastics range from 0.1 to 5,000 μm and nanoplastics from approximately 1 to 100 nm (0.001–0.1 μm). There is no legislation for microplastics and nanoplastics as contaminants in food. Methods are available for identification and quantification of microplastics in food, including seafood. Occurrence data are limited. In contrast to microplastics no methods or occurrence data in food are available for nanoplastics. Microplastics can contain on average 4% of additives and the plastics can adsorb contaminants. Both additives and contaminants can be of organic as well of inorganic nature. Based on a conservative estimate the presence of microplastics in seafood would have a small effect on the overall exposure to additives or contaminants. Toxicity and toxicokinetic data are lacking for both microplastics and nanoplastics for a human risk assessment. It is recommended that analytical methods should be further developed for microplastics and developed for nanoplastics and standardised, in order to assess their presence, identity and to quantify their amount in food. Furthermore, quality assurance should be in place and demonstrated. For microplastics and nanoplastics, occurrence data in food, including effects of food processing, in particular, for the smaller sized particles (< 150 μm) should be generated. Research on the toxicokinetics and toxicity, including studies on local effects in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, are needed as is research on the degradation of microplastics and potential formation of nanoplastics in the human GI tract.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4501
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalEFSA Journal
Issue number6
Early online date23 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group on the presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in food, with particular focus on seafood: Francesco Cubadda, Christer Hogstrand, Peter Hollman, Hendrik Van Loveren, Anne-Katrine Lundebye and Annette Petersen for the preparatory work on this statement, the hearing expert: Stephanie Wright and EFSA staff member: Karen Mackay for the support provided to this statement.


  • microplastic
  • nanoplastic
  • food
  • seafood
  • occurrence


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