Microplastics - facts, research and questions
Microplastics can find their way into food, but what health risks does this pose? To mark the occasion of World Food Safety Day, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is extending an invitation to the 18th Consumer Protection Forum in Berlin on 6 and 7 June 2019. "There have been no scientific indications up to now that plastic particles in food pose a health risk to humans," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "But we need more reliable data on particle size and levels in foods in order to make a comprehensive risk assessment." The first independent tests at the BfR with different particle sizes for oral intake show that microplastics do not damage the stomach or intestinal tissue.
The 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 7 June as World Food Safety Day. The day is being officially celebrated for the first time this year as a worldwide campaign day. It is to centre around questions of food safety and the control of foodborne diseases. World Food Safety Day is intended to draw the attention of consumers, food producers, the relevant international organisations, NGOs and the research and science community, as well as governments and authorities all over the world, to a topic that usually remains invisible - until cases of foodborne disease occur.
The topic "Microplastics in Food" is also to be dealt with on World Food Safety Day. The European Food safety Authority (EFSA) and the BfR have analysed the entry of microplastics via food and ascertained that only a very small proportion is absorbed by the body. On the basis of the current level of scientific knowledge, it is therefore being assumed that the acute health risk through microplastics is low. Not enough is known yet about the health risk potential of chronic intake of microplastics. Moreover, analysis methods have to be improved in order to detect microplastics.
It has also been established that microplastics have spread over the entire planet. The global interlinking of production and trading processes is posing fresh challenges to the safety of foods. With the campaign "EU and My Food", EFSA is emphasising just how important cross-border cooperation is in this area of consumer health protection. This also applies to microplastics in food.
This necessity is also reflected in the EU "Food Safety" almanac published by the BfR. It names and describes each national authority responsible for food and feed safety in Europe. The overview of the organisational connections and collaboration within the European Union not only facilitates the search for European partners, it also helps to avoid the duplication of work and promotes the clarification of responsibilities in the field of food safety.
About the BfR
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.
This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.