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Food Safety Focus (121st Issue, August 2016) – Food Incident Highlight

Microplastics in Seafood

Recently, the media reported that non-degradable microplastics are polluting the oceans. An environmental group has shown concerns that these microplastics may enter the food chain via fish and other seafood, thus posing a threat to food safety.

Microplastics are small plastic particles originate from various sources, e.g. fragmentation of larger plastic debris, microbeads in cosmetic formulation. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), their size ranges from 0.1 to 5 000 micrometres (i.e. from about the size of some bacteria to the size of a soybean respectively).

The EFSA has noted that microplastics may be present in fish and seafood (e.g. mussels). For fish, the EFSA opines that the quantity of microplastics in the edible portion of fish is likely to be negligible for consumer exposure. As most of the microplastics will be found in the gastrointestinal tract, gutting will decrease the exposure compared to eating whole fish. Also, the EFSA considered that consuming one portion of mussels (about 225g) would have a small effect on the exposure of additives or contaminants in the microplastics.

To reduce exposure to microplastics, the Centre for Food Safety advises the public to clean fish and seafood thoroughly, especially to remove its digestive tract, where possible, before cooking.