Heating food in plastic

That Plastic Container You Microwave In Could Be Super-Toxic

. After growing concern from public health groups over the potential health risks of BPA, the FDA banned its use in baby bottles and sippy cups in 2012.

Read More: The FDA’s bold move on BPA

Doctors typically advise minimizing exposure to these chemicals “based on a strong body of evidence in animal literature and a good body of literature supporting what has been seen in animal studies in human studies,” says to Dr. Maida Galvez, Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

So what to do? To reduce unnecessary risk, experts advise everyone to microwave food in glass or ceramic and replace plastic housewares labeled “microwave-safe” if they have been scratched or if the color has changed. “That means a certain area designed not to come in contact with food is coming in contact with food and potentially more chemicals present in that container will migrate into food,” says Rolf Halden, Director of the Center for Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

If food must be covered, then use paper towel, not plastic wrap. Condensation underneath the plastic wrap, which could contain phthalates, could cause fluid to drip down into the food, Halden says.

If microwaving food in plastics is unavoidable, then pay attention to the recycling codes at the bottom of the container. Those codes say something about the type of plastic used—avoid any that have the code 3 or 7. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service advises Americans not to reuse margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers, which are more likely to melt and cause chemicals to leach into food.

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And it’s not just some plastic containers; it’s most. An analysis of 455 common plastic products, including supposedly BPA-free ones, found that 70% tested positive for estrogenic activity; that number went up to 95% when the plastics were microwaved.

Some scientists also worry that the chemicals replacing controversial ones may not be safer. A review of existing research on BPA replacements found they’re “hormonally active in ways similar to BPA,” and a pair of studies linked high blood pressure and insulin resistance to DINP and DIDP, which are designed to replace DEHP, a chemical in consumer plastics that the EPA deemed a probable human carcinogen.

“What ends up happening is one chemical will get a lot of scrutiny, so a company will use one that’s very similar because it has the same properties,” says Sathyanarayana.

In the end, as Mount Sinai‘s Galvez sums up the dilemma: “It’s really hard to be a smart shopper when you don’t necessarily know what’s in a given product, so ideally the legislation and labeling would be in place so that this wouldn’t be a concern.”

Write to Olivia B. Waxman at [email protected]

Microwaving Food in Plastic May Be Hurting Your Health


If you’re about to nuke your leftovers in a plastic container, you might want to dirty another dish. When heated, harmful chemicals in plastic can leach into your food, potentially increasing your risk of high blood pressure and insulin resistance, according to a series of new studies out of NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. This is concerning because hypertension and insulin resistance, which is closely linked to prediabetes, are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

According to the latest study, published this week in the journal Hypertension, chemicals, called phthalates, increasingly used to strengthen plastic wrap, soap, cosmetics, and processed food containers have been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.

Ten years ago, two so-called safer compounds were introduced to replace another chemical, called DEHP, which the same researchers had shown in previous studies to have similar negative health effects.

“Our research adds to growing concerns that environmental chemicals might be independent contributors to insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure and other metabolic disorders,” stated study author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, a professor at NYU Langone.

While more research needs to be done, growing evidence supports the need for vigilance when handling and cooking food in plastics. Follow these seven safe and simple rules for using plasticware in your kitchen:

  1. Never nuke your food in plastic. If you’re heating up leftovers, transfer them into microwave-safe glass or stoneware — or even a paper plate — to avoid harmful chemicals.
  2. Don’t put plastic in the dishwasher. Like microwave heat, hot water in the dishwasher can cause chemicals to leach out of plastic. Instead, gently hand wash plasticware in the sink.
  3. Discard plastic that’s warped or edged from overuse. If your plastic looks worse for wear, it’s time to throw it away. Scarring on plastic is a telltale sign that protective layers are worn out, and “suggests higher leaching” according Dr. Transande.
  4. Choose aluminum foil or waxed paper over plastic cling wrap. Although foil and waxed paper aren’t microwave-safe, they make good substitutes for storing and packing food to go, and they don’t contain phthalates.
  5. Invest in glass storage containers. Reusable glass containers are a safe and economical way to store and heat food and leftovers. Look for options that are both refrigerator- and microwave-safe so you can cool and heat in the same container.
  6. Choose bottled drinks and processed foods wisely. Trasande says you should avoid plastic containers labeled with the numbers 3, 6, or 7, which indicate they contain phthalates.
  7. Make your own meals using fresh, whole foods. If you’re concerned about blood pressure and diabetes and microwaveable meals are in heavy rotation in your house, ditch them in favor of home-cooked meals. Processed foods are packed with more than just the phthalates in the plastic packaging— their high sodium, fat, and sugar content can contribute to hypertension, obesity, and diabetes as well.

Tell us: Are you concerned about the use of plastic containers and your health?

You Shouldn’t Microwave Food In Plastic Containers, Or Put Them In The Dishwasher, Says New Research

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According to a new paper by the American Academy of Pediatrics, many people overlook seemingly minor mistakes that pose serious food safety risks, such as microwaving or dishwashing plastic containers that contain harmful chemicals.

In a new study published online, pediatricians highlighted a growing number of evidence against food packaging materials, in addition to food colorings and preservatives.

Why Microwaving Plastic Containers Is Dangerous

The AAP is advising parents to avoid microwaving food or liquids in plastic containers or putting them in the dishwasher, since doing so would increase the chance of leaking dangerous chemicals. The best food containers, experts and officials say, are those made of glass of stainless steel.

Some types of plastics contain bisphenols, for example BPA, which are used to harden the material and can act similar to “estrogen in the body” — potentially affecting immune systems, impacting fertility, and increasing body fat if consumed, says the AAP. Needless to say that these are potentially life-threatening consequences, especially among children whose bodies are still developing.

“This report outlines not only safe and essential steps that the healthcare community can communicate to parents and families but also some steps that the FDA can take, and frankly manufacturers can take, to limit the exposures of greatest concern,” according to Leonardo Trasande, lead author and member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health.

Other Food Safety Recommendations

Plastics which have recycling codes 3 for phthalates, 6 for styrene, and 7 for bisphenols must all be avoided, says the report. As for avoiding food contamination, the AAP says people should choose whole foods over processed foods as much as possible, and that they should practice washing hands and produce regularly during food preparation to avoid health mishaps.

The report also criticizes some of the more than 10,000 food additives “generally recognized as safe,” including indirect additives such as glue, dyes, and plastic, which have all been linked to serious health problems, according to Trasande. The problems they pose when improperly consumed include:

• brain development

• obesity

• autism

• attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

• limited muscle mass and bone strength.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently in the process of reviewing AAP’s paper, USA Today reports. Press officer Megan McSeveney stressed that there’s “reasonable scientific certainty” that additives, at least those considered safe, are not harmful when used as directed. Suppose brand-new information comes out proving they’re not safe, however, then the FDA surely has the authority to revise previous guidelines and require use of such substances be either restricted or banned entirely.

It’s actually safe to microwave plastic

You can microwave food in plastic containers.

  • Plasticizers in some containers can leak into food when exposed to heat.
  • Plastic containers labeled “microwave safe” don’t release harmful chemicals when heated.
  • Bottom line: you can microwave plastic containers, just make sure they have the label.

Most plastics are derived from petrochemicals such as oil, natural gas, or coal, which makes the idea of heating food in plastic containers not an appetizing thought. But is it actually dangerous to microwave your food in plastic containers?

The fear of microwaving food in plastic containers is linked to plasticizers, a substance typically added to plastic containers to give them their shape and flexibility. Two common plasticizers, bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, are thought to be endocrine disruptors, which in high enough doses can interfere with the endocrine system. These disruptions can lead to tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Plasticizers can leak into food when microwaved at high heat, but the Food and Drug Administration identified this potential risk early on, and as a result, food-grade plastics are subject to rigorous regulations. Manufacturers are forced to adhere to these specifications, or else their products will not be approved for microwave use.

A microwave-safe plastic container works for leftovers, too.

Plastic containers that pass FDA inspection are allowed to label their products “microwave safe,” or display an icon communicating the same thing. Good Housekeeping conducted an experiment microwaving food in 31 different plastic containers, and found that almost none of the food emerged with any plastic residue. That being said, not all plastic containers are designed to handle the heat of the microwave. Manufacturers test their products based on their intended use, therefore a plastic Chinese takeout container doesn’t face the same stringent FDA evaluation, and may melt if microwaved at a high heat.

To be avoid any risk, only use plastic containers that are labeled as “microwave safe,” and avoid using older containers that have been cracked or scratched because these are more likely to leach plastics into food. Most takeout containers, water bottles, or condiment squeeze bottles are not designed to be placed in a microwave.

Which Food Containers Are Safe for the Microwave?

Some materials are fine in the microwave and some aren’t (see below). And then there’s plastic. You’ll find experts who say no plastic containers should be used in the microwave—ever. “The material contains chemicals that may leach into food when it’s heated,” says Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., a scientist with the Environmental Working Group, a health-research organization. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed that plastics labeled “microwave-safe” are suitable for microwave use. “No studies have shown short- or long-term health consequences from heating microwave-safe plastics,” says Michael Herndon, an FDA spokesman. The bottom line? Right now, there isn’t one. If you choose to use plastics, stick with those labeled “microwave-safe” (but don’t allow plastic wrap to touch your food during heating). If you’re wary, use glass or ceramic dishes marked “heatproof” or “microwave-safe.”

Go for It!

  • Glass and ceramic dishes
  • Paper plates, towels, and napkins
  • Wax and parchment paper

Not So Fast

  • Aluminum foil
  • Brown paper bags
  • Cold-storage plastic containers (such as margarine, cottage-cheese, and yogurt tubs)
  • Onetime-use plastic containers
  • Dishes with metallic paint or trim
  • Foam-insulated cups, bowls, plates, and trays

Clean in 90 Seconds

To loosen your microwave’s splatters and stains in a flash, try this favorite Real Simple technique: Heat a bowl of water and lemon juice on high for 5 minutes, then wipe the oven clean with a solution made from 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon baking soda.

Is plastic a threat to your health?

Heating plastics in the microwave may cause chemicals to leach into your foods.

Published: December, 2019

Plastic is everywhere. It’s in bowls, wraps, and a host of bottles and bags used to store foods and beverages. But in recent years more people have been asking whether exposing our food (and ourselves) to all of this plastic is safe.

Studies have found that certain chemicals in plastic can leach out of the plastic and into the food and beverages we eat. Some of these chemicals have been linked to health problems such as metabolic disorders (including obesity) and reduced fertility. This leaching can occur even faster and to a greater degree when plastic is exposed to heat. This means you might be getting an even higher dose of potentially harmful chemicals simply by microwaving your leftovers in a plastic container.

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