Just one day after bottled water was shown to be filled with plastic pollutants, research has revealed that most plant-based meat substitutes contain small bits of plastic that have been linked to cancer. The researchers found that people still ingest plastics no matter what protein they eat—chicken nuggets, steak, fish fillets, or plant-based burgers. Nanoplastics were found in 90% of the items. Scientists are worried that these tiny particles might build up in our bodies’ most essential organs and have undetermined effects on our health.
The development of cancer, heart disease, dementia, and reproductive issues have all been associated with the microscopic particles. Some potential sources of food contamination that researchers have considered include airborne particles, additives, packaging, and machinery used in the food industry. Everyone is feeling the effects of “plastic pollution.”
Since many Americans now eat processed and packaged meals as sit-down meals, the experiment used store-bought samples from two Portland, Oregon supermarkets. After soaking in a detergent to extract residual lipids, the samples were immersed in a solution to break them down further. To find out how much and what kinds of microplastics were in the decomposing food, researchers examined 124 randomly chosen samples.
Microplastics were found in 88% of the samples, which included all 16 protein products, including plant-based proteins and seafood. Nearly half of the dietary sources included fibers, and approximately one-third of the microplastics were plastic shards.
According to researchers, it is still not known precisely how microplastics end up in our food, but they do speculate that facilities that produce and package food emit particles into the air.
If inhaled microfibers from microplastics reach the lungs, they may exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and trigger inflammation and cell and tissue damage.
The report urges efforts to eliminate plastic pollution in all its forms to guarantee a safe and nutritious food supply for all customers and consumers.