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Do Chemicals Leach Into Food When Reusable Plastic Containers Are Microwaved?

Reusable Plastic Food Containers and Leaching Chemicals

In the locker room at my gym last week, I overheard a woman talking to her friend about replacing all her plastic food containers with glass ones. She said that she doesn't want plastic leaching into her or her family's food. Plastics have been getting a bad rap ever since the whole Nalgene BPA fiasco. I know water bottles containing BPA are bad news, but is it necessary to ditch all reusable plastic food containers, too?

Checking the websites of Ziploc and Glad, you learn that the reusable plastic containers made by both companies do not contain cancer-causing BPA. Plus, there is a bevy of BPA-free containers out there to choose from. While that is all very reassuring, what happens when reusable plastic containers are heated in the microwave? To find out the truth,

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You might have received an email or heard the rumor that when plastic containers are microwaved, chemicals can leach into your food. According to The Harvard Medical School Family Medical Guide, the FDA "closely regulates plastic containers and materials that come into contact with food. Before approving a container, the FDA conducts tests to make sure that it doesn’t leak unsafe amounts of any substance into food." The FDA conducts tests that measure the migration of chemicals at temperatures they expect the containers to reach with ordinary use. The agency takes into consideration the ratio of plastic to food, how long the container is in the microwave, how often the user will eat straight out of the container, and how hot the container will get. You should know that chemicals do leach out, but in order for a container to be deemed as safe, "the maximum allowable amount is 100 to 1,000 times less per pound of body weight than the amount shown to harm laboratory animals over a lifetime of use."

The American Cancer Society agrees and says that when you heat something up in the microwave, some of the chemicals can seep into your food, but not enough that would be considered harmful. If this sits well with you, then go ahead and keep using those plastic reusable containers in any way you please. But if you're not OK with any amount of chemicals leaching out into your food, I'd go for glass. I think I'll keep using these containers for fruit, veggies, and snacks, but won't be heating them up anymore. I'll save that for Pyrex containers and real plates and bowls.

Remember, all those tests are done with plastic containers specifically designed for microwave use — the FDA doesn't guarantee the safety of microwaving old yogurt or takeout containers.

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Join The Conversation
hannrkelley hannrkelley 5 years
um....how about you cook your food properly? everyone knows microwaves are not perfectly safe and never will be. i'm sick of everyone cooking VEGGIES in the microwave???? what are you crazy? STEAM THEM. oh my lord.
ChicagoDiva ChicagoDiva 5 years
AWESOME tls girl! I second that.
1apple 1apple 5 years
Good info - thanks for this article. I microwave plastic containers at work because I have little choice, but at home I'll put the food on a plate prior to microwaving it.
danakscully64 danakscully64 5 years
LOL tlsgirl. I love my Glad containers, just bought 5 more, I'm not worried. I don't microwave them often anyway.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 5 years
I like BPA. I feel like it gives my food a little something extra.
2muchtv 2muchtv 5 years
I prefer to use glass because I worry about the microwave and dishwasher warping the plastic. I used to be able to close the lid on the ziplocks with one finger, but not anymore. Like Arthur said, also easier to clean.
ChicagoDiva ChicagoDiva 5 years
Another example of people taking something out of context, not understanding it, and blowing it wayyyyy out of proportion! I blame the media mostly, but also people for not doing their research and being dumb a&&es.
Spectra Spectra 5 years
I use those Ziploc resealable containers for leftovers and I have no problem with using them for reheating things. The amount of BPA is so negligible that I figure it's probably ok. I think the whole BPA-leaching thing is more of a media scare than a legitimate problem.
Arthur Arthur 5 years
Go glass! Not only do you not have to worry about them pesky chemicals, they clean up real nice. I always feel like plastic doesn't get really clean, but glass: squeaky clean! I have a couple sets like this: http://www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/foodStorage/leftoversGlass?productId=10015932 love them
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