Rethinking Your Lunch and Food Storage Containers
I was chatting with my daughter, Erica, over the weekend about plastic food containers. Or, should I say, picking her brain because I knew she knew a little bit about plastics. She said it first came onto her her radar about 15 years ago during an Army National Guard deployment. She had pulled bagel out of the microwave in what was now a deformed plastic container, and, someone said “You are going to die!” Over the course of the past 10 years she and her family have been transitioning to glass food storage containers. She went on to talk about many of the plastic food containers containing BPA (bisphenol) which can mimic estrogen. It turns out many of the BPA free plastics contain a replacement that is just as bad. BPS, BPF, BPAF, BPZ, BPP, BHPF. Notice they all contain the letters BP. Avoid these. BPA and it’s alternatives are even worse when heated. BPA is the substance that makes your plastic food container strong, flexible, rigid, and heat resistant. Even canned foods are typically in a can lined with plastic containing BPA or alternative. BPA as been linked to obesity and hormone disruption and even linked to breast cancer. And this doesn’t even began to touch on the issues of plastics in our oceans and in our drinking water. A CDC survey done in 2003 and 2004 found BPA in 93% of urine samples. BPA replacements decrease sperm counts and result is less viable eggs as well. So, toss your BPA plastics and avoid BPA alternatives to be safe. Throw away plastic food containers when scratched or when they appear to be ageing. Glass and stainless steel are great alternatives. Ball or Kerr canning jars make great water glasses and you can buy lids with straws to fit them (see below.) The lids are plastic but they do not sit in the water you are drinking. You can also purchase reusable stainless steel straws. There are also many economically priced glass food containers on the market now. They are especially great if you are packing your lunch and plan to pop your food container into a microwave.
Primer on Plastics (look for the # in the triangle on container bottom):
Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET. Lightweight, clear, smooth, single use only. Used for water, sodas, peanut butter. Recyclable. More toxic when exposed to heat or sunlight and with longer exposure more toxic materials are leached from the plastic. The acid content of the food can also affect the toxicity levels. PET is porous and bacteria can accumulate in it so avoid reusing PET containers
High Density Polyethylene or HDPE. Used for milk and water containers. Recyclable. Not bad
Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC – AVOID. Stabilizers used in production include salts of metals such as lead. Decomposition of PVC releases harmful chemicals like lead, DEHA and dioxin – yikes! When checking my food containers I found several old discolored “popular brand name” container marked with 3. I tossed them immediately! Whew!
Low-density polyethelene or LDPE. Used for bread packaging, frozen food, plastic wraps, grocery bags, and to line milk and juice boxes. Low level of toxins. Not usually recycled. Generally considered safe, except for the fact that our oceans are becoming clogged with plastics which do not readily decompose!
Plastic # 5:
Polypropylene or PP. Translucent or opaque. High melting point. Microwavable and dishwasher safe. Used in yogurt containers, cream cheese containers, maple syrup bottles. Not easy to recycle. High heat tolerance. Another plastic which doesn’t seem to decompose into harmful byproducts but which poses other problems because it does not decompose fast enough!
Polystyrene or PS. Not economically beneficial to recycle. Used for egg cartons. EPA classified carcinogen. Releases styrene which acts as a neurotoxin and can accumulate in the body’s fat stores.
Plastic #7 Mixed:
Almost impossible to recycle and has the most potential health hazards. Used for 5 gallon water bottles and sports bottles. Avoid heating. Wash with mild detergent.
Stay safe and keep your family safe. Opt for glass or stainless steel when available. Plastics #s 1,2,4,5 seem pretty safe, aside from clogging our oceans. Avoid #3 and #7 at all costs. In general it is best to avoid using plastic containers to heat food in a microwave. I try to to avoid heating plastic which will be used for food storage as the heat might cause the plastic to break down and release nasty toxins. I transfer foods sold in plastic packaging to a glass container before heating in a microwave.
Thank you for reading the Platinum Muse! Up next week: My gluten free sour dough starter which is currently in the works on my kitchen counter, and, my gluten free sour dough crackers! Stay tuned!