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Photo of cann food, and plastic food and drink contrainers.

Some people are afraid to use plastic containers for food or drinks.  Other people use nothing but plastic due to the convenience.  Should we be concerned or not?

Some chemicals used in the lining of food cans or to make certain types of plastic containers include Bisphenol A (BPA), Perchlorate, or Phthalates.  Many of these have been absorbed by our bodies and found in our urine or  blood samples.  These chemicals can interfere with some of the hormones in our body.  The hormones affected include estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormone, insulin, along with others. These hormones not only affect reproductive health but also heart, brain, and bone health.   They can also put you at increased risk for some hormone sensitive cancers like breast or prostate.

What precautions should you take?

Recycling symbol with number 3 and PVC under it.Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Vinyl. This one contains phthalates.

Recycling symbol with number 6 and PS under it.Polystyrene Foam (One popular brand is Styrofoam.). The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers this one a possible human carcinogen.

Recycling symbol with number 7 in it and the word "Other" under it. Contains BPA as it is mostly polycarbonate.

  • Try to limit your use of plastic containers for food and drink. Use stainless steel, glass, or ceramic containers for food or liquids.
  • Don’t microwave in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramic containers.  If you microwave in plastic, try not to use containers with the recycling number 7.  High heat can cause chemicals to leach out and to be absorbed in the food.  Don’t use cling wrap in the microwave, use a paper towel or a plate.
  • Try to keep very hot foods or liquids out of plastic containers. Cool foods and liquids before storing them in plastic containers.
  • Wash plastic containers by hand to avoid the harsh detergents and high heat in the dishwasher. If you do use the dishwasher, place them on the top rack.
  • Toss scratched plastic containers. It is possible for harmful chemicals to leach from them.
  • Reduce or limit canned foods. Most metal cans are lined with a coating that contains BPA. Eat fresh or frozen foods.
  • Avoid touching thermal paper. Paper used in thermal printers has a slick, slightly shiny coating which contains BPA.  Limit your handling of credit card and ATM receipts which are usually printed by thermal printers.
  • Use BPA free infant formula bottles and look for toys labeled BPA free. The FDA has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.

In some cases, plastic containers are more convenient and safer.  Recommendations: If you need to keep food in plastic containers, try to use containers with the recycling symbol of

Recycling symbol with the number 1 in it and the letters "PETE" under it.          Recycling symbol with the number 2 in it and the letters "HDPE" under it.          Recycling symbol with the number 4 in it and the letters "LDPE" under it.     or    Recycling symbol with the number 5 in it and the letters "PP" under it. .

Purchase stainless steel drinking bottles for your family and you.  Have some glass or ceramic containers to use for cooking and storing food.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator

Reviewer:  Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator

References:

Dow, C. (2017). BPA: Still a Big Deal.  Available at https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/food-safety/bpa-still-a-big-deal/

Ettman, L. (2017). Dodging Endocrine Disruptors:  Here’s What You Need to Know About Phthalates.  Available at https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/food-safety/phthalates/

National Toxicology Program.  (2010). Bisphenol A (BPA) Available at https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/bisphenol_a_bpa_508.pdf

U. S. Food and Drug Administration.  (February 2018). Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application.  Available at https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm064437.htm

 

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As the summer school break comes to an end and packing lunches is a nightly routine, it is important to remember to make sure the lunch is handles properly and safe to eat. Perishable food must be kept cold. Here are some back to school food safety tips:

Clean – Clean Hands, Clean Surfaces

  • Wash hands with warm, soapy water before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Use clean packaging and bags.

 

Separate – Don’t Cross Contaminate

  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for meat and poultry to avoid cross contamination.
  • At lunchtime, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Chill – Keep Lunches Cold

  • Keeping food cold slows bacterial growth and keeps food safe.
  • Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140°F.
  • Keep perishable food refrigerated until time to leave home.
  • Include a frozen gel pack or frozen juice box with perishable food in the insulated lunch bag or lunch box.
  • Use an insulated soft-sided bag if possible. It’s best for keeping food cold.
  • Store perishable items in a refrigerator (if available) immediately upon arrival.

Keep Hot Lunches Hot

  • Use an insulated container to keep hot food hot — 140°F or above.
  • Cook frozen convenience meals according to package instructions, including standing time if using a microwave.

Author: Susan Zies, Ohio State University Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Wood County, http://wood.osu.edu/.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Ohio State University Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator.

 

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