There is always a risk associated to storing food in plastic containers.
The longer you store the food and the cheaper the plastic, the worse the effects to your health.
Certain plastics are however considered safer than others but to be completely sure that you’re not exposing yourself to anything harmful, try to stick to silicone, stainless steel or glass vessels instead.
Nonetheless, here we’ll be taking you through a look at the various types of plastic you get and showing you which are classified as ‘safe’ and which are at a high risk of releasing harmful toxins.
Always look for the resin identification number which is container within a triangle located on the plastic product. The presence of a triangle immediately shows you that the plastic can be recycled which normally means that it is safer than other more harmful types. Here’s a look at the safer plastics typically found.
Polyethylene terephythalate is also known as PET or PETE and is considered safe to a certain degree. Plastic containers made from PETE are typically made from recycled plastic and can be reused a few times if they’re cleaned with soapy water and thoroughly dried. Try to avoid reusing this type of plastic too many times as phthalates will begin to leak out.
As soon as PETE containers go cracked or cloudy throw them away. This safer plastic is normally used for water bottles, soda bottles and both jam and peanut butter jars and should always be recycled.
You also get low- and high-density polyethylene. High-density containers should be recycled while LDPE (low density polyethylene) results in a lot of waste and has to be thrown away. Sealable sandwich bags, plastic wrap and squeezable containers normally feature LDPE, while high-density products include milk jugs, assorted food containers and other forms of packaging.
Containers made from polypropylene are generally seen to be safe from toxins. Studies show that they can be reused a significant number of times without releasing any harmful compounds. Products featuring this plastic are normally designed for long-term use and thus are not easily accepted by most standard plastic recycling operations. You’ll have to look around for a dedicated plastic recycler.
Renewal Resource Plastics/Bio-plastics
Certain plastics, especially those used in plastic cups and plates and their utensils, are partially made from corn, potatoes, and other high-starch materials. These plastics can be composted but very few recyclers exist due to the large quantities that is required before recycling can begin. They’re safe for use but horrible in terms of pollution.
Harmful Plastics to Avoid
There are certain types of plastic which are an established threat to your health. Encounter any of these and avoid at all costs.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
PVC contains carcinogenic compounds which disrupt the body’s hormonal systems. From pulmonary problems to its cancer risk, PVC containers and plastic piping, sheeting or any other form is highly hazardous to your health.
When food is stored in a PVC container, the chemical compound DEHP and dioxin both migrate into the food. Dioxin is a clear human carcinogen, as classified as such by the World Health Organization, and DEHP (or Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate leads to liver tumors and widespread reproductive problems. Stay away from PVC.
As the go-to-choice of travel cups and the first thing that comes to mind when considering utensils and plates for camping, polystyrene is horrible for your health. We need to step away from using this detrimental plastic in all ways. For decades, the FDA has declared polystyrene as unsafe for food storage yet we continue to eat and drink out of it. The sheer amount of polystyrene pollution alone has driven many organizations and US states to call for a ban on it completely.
From baby bottles to water cooler containers, polycarbonate is used across a wide range of products but it is far from safe. This plastic is made using the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A, or BPA.
Linked to everything from fetal abnormalities to total hormone disruption effecting the thyroid well into later life, BPA and polycarbonate plastics should be avoided like the plague. They’re typically cheap and look like they can hold up well, showing signs of good durability but the release of BPA among other trace elements of metals makes them horrible in all regards.
Plastic Container Food Safety
If you do decide to store food in plastic containers then by no means reheat or cook food in them even if they are marked as microwave safe. Similarly, only put food which has cooled completely in any given plastic container. If you notice any cracking or clouding of the plastic then throw the container away or recycle it. You don’t want to run the risk of ingesting more plastic by-products than you need to.