Why You Should Avoid Plastics When it Comes to Food

Plastics, thanks to their cheap availability, can be found almost everywhere nowadays. One such place is in our foods. From packaging, serving to even warming foods, plastics are being used in one form or another. Even when we don’t use plastics, chances are that the food we eat may have at some point come into contact with plastic along the food supply chain.

At most homes, plastic utensils and kitchenware can hardly be missed. Some of the popular household utensils made of plastic include cups, plates, bowls, food containers and plastic bottles. Polythene bags while not utensils, are plastics too and are used widely at homes and food vendors for packing and storing foods.

Plastics are usually made up of different chemicals. Some of this chemicals are harmful to both human and animal health and can find their way in our foods through a process known as migration or leaching. Such chemicals which have come into limelight in the recent years  include the likes of Bisphenol A (BPA), Melamine and Phthalate.

The Effects of BPA

plastic bottles
Plastic Bottles

BPA for example gets in our foods through leaching. This leaching of BPA into the food is triggered when hot food or fluid comes into contact with the plastic material. High leaching can happen if the food it has come into contact with is fatty, acidic or salty.

BPA is very harmful to the body and going by a study done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) back in 2005, it seems its contamination is quite prevalent. This study for instance detected BPA in the urine samples of 95% of the people tested.

Some of the effects of BPA is that it affects the development of the foetus in the mother’s womb, increases chances for liver toxicity, heart disease and diabetes. It’s also associated with:

  • lowering of sperm production
  • impairing learning
  • compromising immune system
  • damage of the brain, 
  • change in sexual behaviour, 
  • cancer of the breast and prostate gland

Such plastics therefore have no business coming into contact with our foods.

How to Keep Your Food Safe from Plastics?

The most ideal measure is to avoid plastics as much as possible but this may not be feasible as they’re pretty much everywhere. As we have mentioned earlier, the chemicals are released more when the plastic’s temperature become high.

So it if it’s possible, avoid warming or putting hot food or liquid in plastic containers. If you’re not sure of the safety of the plastic (i.e if it contains these harmful chemicals) it’s best to use something else to pack, serve or warm your food.

More Safety Measures

  • Don’t microwave foods in plastic containers or bags – instead use glass and ceramics (without gold or silver decorations
  • If you’re going to use a plastic container in a microwave, make sure it’s microwave safe (usually printed on the label).
  • Avoid using bottle or plastic cups when feeding or preparing your child’s food (use glass and ceramic cups/bowls instead)
  • Prefer using glass, ceramic and stainless steel cups, plates and dishes for serving foods, especially for foods that are hot.
  • Use glass or stainless steel bottles to carry water around with you. This is also good for the environment.
  • Avoid cleaning plastic food containers/utensils in hot water as this increases leaching of dangerous chemicals. Also don’t clean plastic utensils with harsh detergents as it increases the leaching.
  • Dispose your old and worn out (scratched) plastic utensils and food containers

REFERENCES

1. Urinary concentrations of bisphenol A and 4-nonylphenol in a human reference population
2. 20 Ways to Give Up Plastic (And the Toxins in It)
3. 2007 Pet Food Recalls
4. Don’t Put Your Coffee in Plastic Cups 

5. Pots, Pans, and Plastics: A Shopper’s Guide to Food Safety

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