Hidden plastics in tea bags mean that tea drinkers could be consuming billions of plastic micro particles every time they have ‘a cuppa’, according to a recent study.

The study took place at Montreal’s McGill University by Laura Hernandez and colleagues (2019). It found that nylon teabags steeped at 95 degrees Celsius release hidden nasties. The study showed that one brew could contain up to 11.6bn particles of harmful microplastics. A further 3.1bn were nanoparticles which can potentially cause damage on a cellular level. These levels are thousands of times higher than those reported previously in other foods and drinks.

Premium pyramid shaped teabags made from nylon have potential to release this plastic into our bodies and subsequently the environment. Worryingly, some premium tea bags are branded as being ‘silky’. This implies that the bag is made from silk, when in reality many are made from nylon.

The health implications of such products have not been studied and the study’s authors said more research is needed to determine the effect of these plastics on humans.

This is an under researched area but scientists will ultimately be able to evaluate the effects of ingesting these plastics. With diseases such as COPD and cancer on the rise, science will be able to determine what harm these unnatural products have caused to lives and ecosystems.

Consumer confidence could be shaken

GlobalData’s 2018 Q3 survey results show that 41% of global consumers associate “natural/chemical-free” with high quality food and drinks. Similarly, products with unnatural ingredients are a deterrent to many consumers.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the health and environmental impact of these products. It is safe to assume that they will be looking for alternatives to these premium goods – without the unwanted plastic extras.

This opens an opportunity for manufacturers to produce teabags in natural, biodegradable materials rather than these plastic offerings.

In the meantime, manufacturers have a responsibility to give consumers an honest indication of what a product contains. This enables customers to make an informed purchasing decision. By withholding such information, consumers can be misled into buying a product that they thought was good for them, when the opposite may be true.

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