Food Safe Plastic: An Oxymoron or a Viable Option?
Have you ever gone shopping and seen a reusable water bottle or food container labeled as “food safe plastic”? Since the mass production of plastic in the early 1900s, plastic food packaging, containers, utensils, and bottles have become commonplace. However, recent studies suggest that plastic can leach chemicals into food. If this is possible, just how safe is food safe plastic?
What is food safe plastic?
Food safe plastic, also referred to as food grade plastic, is any plastic that can safely come into contact with food or drink. The best way to determine if an item is made from food safe plastic is to look at the recycling number. In the US, the FDA has determined that polypropylene (5), low and high-density polyethylene (4, 2), and polycarbonate (6) are food safe plastics.
*This blog may contain affiliate links which means I make a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. See the disclosure policy for more information
The truth about food safe plastic
Plastic isn’t a completely stable material, which means that it can change and break down under certain conditions. Most reusable and takeaway containers are made from polyethylene or polypropylene – the same materials that have been deemed to be food safe. However, research has shown that when exposed to high temperatures, like those used in dishwashers or microwaves, these forms of plastic can break down. When this happens, they begin to leach chemicals into the food or drinks they contain. Some evidence also suggests that oily food can have the same effect.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is commonly found in rigid plastic. It’s actually a weak synthetic estrogen which can disrupt hormones. BPA has been linked to cancer. Additionally, phthalates, which give plastic its flexible quality, are linked to reproductive health issues in animal studies. They’re linked to asthma, neurodevelopmental issues, and decreased fertility in humans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that there are measurable levels of phthalates across the population of the US.
Then there’s the issue of plastic consumption. People are eating the equivalent of a credit card each week thanks to microplastic pollution, according to a study done by the WWF. Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic, no bigger than a grain of rice. When our plastic food containers (and all other plastic) break down, this is what they become. Since this is such a new issue, we do not yet know the effect of this plastic on the human body.
What to use instead
If you want to skip the risks of using food safe plastics, there are tons of alternatives. Plastic can sometimes be unavoidable – for example, if you have limited grocery stores near you, or if you aren’t in control of the shopping for your household. However, if you do have the choice, here are a few great alternatives:
- Save old pasta sauce jars or use mason jars
For more plastic free kitchen swaps, check out my blog post here.
Have you had it with food safe plastic yet? Leave a comment below and let me know what swaps you’ll be making!
I hope you’ve found this blog helpful! As always, you can support me and the site by buying me a cup of coffee, joining the Aim Plastic Free challenge or sharing the site with a friend. Your support means the world to me!