As easy as it is to pop those leftovers right from the refrigerator to the microwave in those convenient plastic food storage containers, you might want to think twice. Taking that extra minute to get out a glass or ceramic dish, the only truly safe microwave cookware, could spare your health.
There has been a huge extent of controversy over the leaching of BPA (Bisphenol A) into food or liquid, not even cooked, but stored in containers made of polycarbonate (PC) plastic. When heat is added the leaching of chemicals may be intensified and more harmful than we think.
BPA is a synthetic estrogen that adds properties to plastic, making it clear, strong, and shatter resistant. In late 2008, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) held its’ position that BPA is safe at the levels at which we are exposed; however, critics and independent scientists disagree since hundreds of independent studies have proven otherwise.
BPA has been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian dysfunction, early onset puberty, and type II diabetes, and is believed to be even more harmful to fetuses and infants.
Since these findings have been uncovered, six major baby bottle companies have voluntarily discontinued making plastic baby bottles that contain BPA. Bravo for Avent America, Inc., Disney First Years, Dr. Brown, Evenflo, Gerber, and Playtex Products, Inc. Most baby bottles sold in the US today are BPA free. So why would we want to store or microwave our food in a food storage container that embodies a chemical deemed so harmful that baby bottle manufacturer’s voluntarily stopped using it? We are simply a country that likes convenience, but we may be paying for it with our health.
Check to see if you have BPA in your cupboards. They are the hard, non-flexible plastic storage containers with a recycle code of 7. The recycle code is usually found on the bottom of a container as a number inside of a small triangular shape. Some of these #7 containers that contain BPA even have Safe Microwave Cookware stamped on the bottom. Don’t bet on it. Some of these containers were made before the controversy arose, and others are made by manufacturers who, relying on the FDA’s research, believe their products are safe.
The softer, more flexible type of food storage container that has a recycle code of 5 is made of polypropylene (PP) and does not contain BPA. These containers are safe to store food in; however, food should never be cooked or reheated in them. The #5 containers also leach toxins and plastic particles into the food or liquid heated in them. A great example of this can be observed when tomato sauce is heated in a polypropylene plastic container. The plastic actually changes form and bubbles due to the reaction of the chemicals found in the plastic and the acidic food, causing tiny particles of plastic to mix with the food.
Although the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has asked the National Academies of Science to conduct a new study on the effects of BPA, the process could take years. Until the research is complete, it might be wise to become more health conscious and a bit old fashioned and go back to using ceramic and glass. They are already becoming recognized as the new green cookware for microwaving.