Friday, January 22, 2010

The Latest on Plastic Food Storage - And Alternatives

storage jar with pictures of herring

It is clear that the government and scientists and doctors need more research to better understand the potential human health effects of exposure to BPA, especially when it comes to the impact of BPA exposure on young children. -- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

As The New York Times reports:
In a shift of position, the Food and Drug Administration is expressing concerns about possible health risks from bisphenol-A, or BPA, a widely used component of plastic bottles and food packaging that it declared safe in 2008. ...

But health officials said there was no proof that BPA was dangerous to humans.

“If we thought it was unsafe, we would be taking strong regulatory action,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of the drug agency, at a news briefing.

Nonetheless, health officials suggested a number of things people could do to limit their exposure to BPA, like throwing away scratched or worn bottles or cups made with BPA (it can leak from the scratches), not putting very hot liquids into cups or bottles with BPA and checking the labels on containers to make sure they are microwave safe.
Scientific American also reported on this latest announcement:
Reproductive biologist Fred vom Saal at the University of Missouri–Columbia, who has studied BPA for more than a decade, hailed the decision as a "monumental change. This means in the future we can expect more than just one or two flawed industry studies to be the foundation of risk assessments at the FDA."
If you would like to avoid plastic food storage containers, you can see my prior posts, listed at the end of this one, for some alternatives. Smart2begreen summarizes the choices nicely: glass, stainless steel, ceramic, and polylactic acid (PLA).

And here's an option I hadn't seen before: Almedahls' herring storage jar, made of porcelain (with a plexiglass lid), sold by Huset, and shown at the top of this post. So the lid is a plastic, but the container itself is not - and it's sure cute. Update on March 17, 2014: I'm no longer finding this at Huset, but it's available at Ruby Roost.

food storage, ceramic

And then there are these wonderful containers from Yoyo Ceramics, also sold by Thorsten van Elten - they look like plastic, but are actually ceramic. [via Apartment Therapy]

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Emily Berk and Kristi Miller Durazo for pointing me to The New York Times and Scientific American.

Related Posts:
Plastic Food Storage: OK or Not?
Reader Question: Glass Food Storage

Update on Nov. 1, 2010: For even more information, see my latest post on this subject!


Julie S. said...

Good ideas. Another idea I like that is very inexpensive and fairly safe is the Pyrex bowls with lids.

Available in many styles, they are often found at outlet stores and I can buy extra lids (which I always seem to need). The see-through nature ensures I know what is there when I stack them, and though the lids are often plastic, it doesn't touch the food and can be removed for heating.

I am a new subscriber, and am loving the eye-candy and ideas -- though INEXPENSIVE and easy to get in the USA when you are not near one of the centers of the urban world, well, is what I am looking for. Mostly I just oggle all the impossible for me to get ideas... but wanted to offer some mid-American ideas, too.

Jeri Dansky said...

Julie, welcome! I agree that Pyrex is a fine answer. I wrote about Pyrex in an earlier article; see the links at the end of this one.

I try to mix up the eye candy and the more affordable options - this week was heavy on the eye candy. But I don't usually point to things you find at Target or The Container Store and such - since people can easily find those without me.

billf said...

Bummer - there really is almost nothing safe anymore. How many plastic water bottles get purchased, used and disposed of every day? How many chemicals are we exposing ourselves to?'s getting scarier and scarier....

Jeri Dansky said...

Billf, regarding the water bottles, I've personally decided to use the BPA-free CamelBak bottles - so I carry my own, and don't buy bottled water all the time. There's no guarantee that's safe, but it's my choice for now.

SueBK said...

As an easy guide, my toxicology lecturer said "the softer the plastic, the bigger the danger". Soft plastics have a more malleable molecular structure, which means, when heated they are able to 'let go' of molecules more readily. According to my naturapath, heated plastics can also leak (o)estrogen.
I think it's wonderful that finally there's a move to alert the general public, instead of it being the rantings of a few toxicology lecturers, LOL.
I have a house full of plastic (who doesn't?) but I do try to remember to only use the hard (shatter-able) stuff for heating.

Jeri Dansky said...

Thanks for the useful information, SueBK!

Nicky at Not My Mother said...

I've been concerned about plastics and food for some time. Recently Choice magazine in Australia ran a report on the risks and specifically, *which* plastics were considered to have a potential risk.

The entire article is interesting but the types of plastics to avoid are listed here:

(Of course, this does presume that the plastics recycling symbols are standard worldwide - I believe they are but can't speak for the US.)

Jeri Dansky said...

Thanks for sharing that, Nicky! The Green Guide has a similar list, and it agrees as to which plastics are most worrisome. (It seems the symbols used in Australia are the same ones we use here in the U.S.)

However, other experts claim there is some risk with all plastics, when heated with food.

Nicky at Not My Mother said...

Jeri, thanks for the link to the Green Guide and to your previous article. I'm thinking I'll invest in a set of pyrex dishes for microwaving, just to be safe. (It won't make my Tupperware-pusher friends happy, but oh well!)

It upsets me that BPAs are so common in things used for babies, who you'd think would be most at risk.

Also, I'm a new reader as well, so I just wanted to say hello and that I'm loving your blog. (And how nice to find someone who can organise a closet WITHOUT buying all new super matching containers, much more realistic!)

Jeri Dansky said...

Welcome, Nicky - I'm glad you're enjoying my blog!

Janet Barclay said...

It's really quite scary what we humans do to ourselves for the sake of convenience: if we need to pack a lunch, it's much easier to grab a bottle of water than to fill your own container, and a plastic container of leftovers to reheat in the microwave is lighter to carry than a Pyrex dish... but at what cost to our health?

I am fairly careful these days, but it worries me when I think of how many toxins unknowingly exposed myself to over the years.