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Plastics in Food - A Real Problem + What We Can Do

Today I’m sharing about a topic that is not all that well known, and also rather concerning - plastics in food. 

Most people are generally aware of the harmful effects of plastic - both on our health as well as the environment - but I think many people would be surprised to learn how widespread the issue is! Especially in this day and age because as a society, we are much more environmentally conscious than a few decades ago. However, it can be surprising to learn how much farther we really have to go when it comes to preventing the harmful effects of plastics.   

Plastics in Food

Consumer Reports recently published a study on plastics in food, and the results were much more concerning than most people would care to think. 

The study results: Plastics, or plasticizers actually - which are chemicals in plastics used to make the product more flexible and durable, were found in all but one food item that was tested in the study. The most commonly used plasticizers are phthalates and bisphenols (the most commonly discussed one being BPA). 

The study looked at 85 different foods - ranging from packaged food and beverages to fast food. Polar’s Raspberry Lime Seltzer (in the can) was the only product that had no plasticizers detected. 

One positive finding, however, was that the levels of BPA found in the foods were notably lower than during a 2009 study. While this small fact is reassuring, the amount of phthalates that were detected in the foods indicates that most of us are consuming these harmful chemicals through our food on a very regular basis.     

How Plastics in Food Affect Your Health 

Unfortunately, the negative impacts that plasticizers have on our health are often shown only over a long-term period. Therefore, the scientific evidence that we have makes it difficult for policy change advocates to make a case. 

However, studies have indeed shown that these harmful chemicals (phthalates in particular) are linked to insulin issues, high blood pressure, reproductive issues, and early menopause. Additionally, newer research is showing that they can interfere with hormone level production, which can lead to increased risk of:

  • Some cancers 

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Infertility  

a pile of plastic water bottles - how to avoid plastics in food


As I’ve written about before, we should treat the food that we consume as medicine and fuel to our bodies. Being mindful of how many foods contain these harmful chemicals is the first step in protecting ourselves!   

Plastics in the Food Chain

One of the most surprising points made in the Consumer Reports study on plastics in food, is that the source of plasticizers is not just from the plastic that food is packaged in. It is actually present throughout the food chain and leaches into food all during production phases as well. 

This could be from animals accidentally consuming plastic that is used in mulch, to food coming into contact with plastic conveyor belts, to being handled by vinyl gloves during preparation.  

So, What Can We Do? How to Avoid Microplastics in Food

Limit Your Exposure Through Food 

First and foremost, it’s important to try to limit your exposure to plastics in food as best you can. You can do this by reading the full list of products that were studied by Consumer Reports here. This list can help you make more informed decisions at the grocery store and while eating out. 

In general, most of the foods on the list were packaged foods in the grocery store - which you can avoid by doing the bulk of your shopping in the fresh and produce sections. 

The other major category was fast food, which of course has been known for years to cause health problems, so avoiding fast food in general is not a bad idea. For the sake of this particular concern, it’s especially a good idea to avoid high-fat fast foods because plasticizers are fat soluble.     

Limit Your Exposure at Home 

There are several ways to limit your exposure to plastics - especially through food - in your own home. 

1.Switch from plastic food containers to glass or metal

  • Also, avoid heating up food in plastic containers in the microwave

  • Many glass containers still have plastic lids, so try to store food in them low enough so it’s not touching the lid.

2. Avoid using plastic materials in kitchen prep

  • Such as cutting boards and colanders 

  • Wood, stainless steel, or silicone as much safer materials to use instead

3. Avoid using plastic water bottles 

  • Metal and glass water bottles are much less toxic than plastic. It doesn’t have to be a fancy Stanley or Yeti either! Any metal or glass bottle is better than plastic. 

A bunch of colorful plastic straws - how to avoid plastics in food


Though plasticizers have been banned in some product categories (such as children’s toys), we have not yet seen policy changes regarding food standards. The FDA has stated that they are working on collecting information on the harmful effects of plasticizers, which is a start. 

Scientists are also currently working on developing non-toxic yet functional products for use in the future, which is also hopeful! We can keep advocating and speaking up about this issue and hopefully begin to see more change. 

Nutrition Counseling

If some of the suggestions in this post seem difficult or out of reach to you, nutritional counseling can help! Body Esteem offers both nutritional counseling and exercise guidance to help you live your most optimal life. 


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