How safe are the plastic containers you use every day?

Water bottles, styrofoam takeout containers, storage boxes – what do all these packaging items have in common? The short answer is plastic.

While plastic is generally considered safe for use in the food and beverage packaging industry, in recent years questions have been raised about the potential health risks of one of its components, the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).

Controversy has been raging over the safety of BPA, with some researchers linking the chemical to reproductive disorders, liver toxicity and other health conditions. Meanwhile, representatives of the plastic industry maintain BPA is completely safe.

According to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “current approved uses of BPA in food containers and packaging are safe”.

Addressing the concern that low levels of BPA could leak into food from containers, FDA says: “People are exposed to low levels of BPA because, like many packaging components, very small amounts of BPA may migrate from the food packaging into foods or beverages. Studies pursued by FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) have shown no effects of BPA from low-dose exposure.”

Can plastic containers be used in the microwave oven?

Another concern is the use of plastic containers in the microwave oven. There is a fear that chemicals from plastic containers may leak into the food during the heating process.

Experts advise that containers which are labeled microwave-safe are completely safe to use in the microwave oven, while those not labeled should not be used. Also, avoid using scratched or cracked plastic containers since these can leak chemicals into the food. Do ensure you remove the lid of the container or loosen the cover as instructed before use.

Styrofoam and takeout containers that are labeled microwave-safe can be used in the microwave oven. However, if the label says one-time use only, make sure you use the container only once. Never use takeout containers that hold yogurt, butter, margarine, cheese, peanut butter etc. in a microwave oven.

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