Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Are plastics safe for food storage? I last addressed this question back in January 2007, so here's an update.
As you might suspect, there is no one absolute answer to this question. Much of the current concern centers around BPA, which is found in many hard plastic containers used for food. The FDA declared that BPA is safe, but recent disclosures show that the FDA relied on information from chemical industry lobbyists to reach that conclusion. Many are concerned about BPA's toxicity; some cities and states have banned the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups, and now Congress is once again considering banning it in all food and beverage containers.
BPA is found in many polycarbonates; polycarbonates (and some other plastics) have recycling code #7. But BPA has also been found to leach from other plastics when microwaved. "There is no such thing as safe microwaveable plastic," said Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri researcher. [quoted from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Caroline Baier-Anderson discusses, a health scientist and an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore concurs: "It is best not to microwave plastics, particularly since alternatives are widely available."
If You Want to Use Plastic Food Storage
Based on what we know today, some plastics seem to be safer than others. The Green Guide will help you pick the best plastic products. And manufacturers are generally quick to tell you when their products are BPA-free. Update on July 20, 2011: The Green Guide seems to have disappeared, but over on GreenerPenny Mindy Pennybacker - the prior editor of The Green Guide and co-founder of thegreenguide.com - explains about safer plastics. For similar information, with an easier-to-read format, see Care2; the information here is adapted from thegreenguide.com.
Rubbermaid tells you which of its products contain BPA; most do not. (The photo above shows just some of Rubbermaid's BPA-free products.)
While Tupperware claims BPA is safe, the company also provides you with the recycle code for each of its products. Update on March 17, 2014: As of March 2010, items sold by Tupperware US and CA are BPA-free.
OXO says all of the company's POP containers are BPA-free.
Preserve food storage is made from 100% recycled plastic and is BPA-free. It's a #5 plastic, one of the better options. [via Apartment Therapy]
GladWare containers do not contain BPA, nor do Ziploc containers.
If You'd Prefer to Avoid Plastic
One option is stainless steel. LunchBots are stainless steel containers with stainless steel lids.
And here are some airtight stainless steel food containers - unfortunately, round instead of rectangular. Update on July 20, 2011: The site that I found these on no longer has them - but they seem to be the ONYX containers, available here and here.
If you're willing to have plastic lids (#4, one of the better plastics), you could consider these rectangular stainless steel food containers.
Another option is glass. Anchor Hocking's kitchen storage is glass with BPA-free plastic lids; if you want glass lids, too, look at the Bake 'N' Store bakeware, shown above. The Container Store also has glass storage with glass lids.
And of course Pyrex has food storage products - with plastic lids, which the company says are BPA-free. For not-too-crazy prices you can also get vintage Pyrex with glass lids, such as the pieces above, found at Ruby Lane.
[photo at top of post by jerrroen / Jeroen, licensed under Creative Commons]