Is It Finally Time to Dump All Plastic Food Storage Containers?

Various food storage containers in a pile

Credit: Sara Danielsson/Getty

A little over a decade ago, plastics manufacturers ditched a chemical known as DEHP because it was identified as a probable carcinogen. DEHP was replaced with another series of phthalates and environmental chemicals. As it turns out, these may not be any better than the DEHP they replaced.

Case in point: A new study from Hypertension suggests that these replacements may cause some of the same negative health effects as the chemical they replaced. Two of these chemicals in particular, DIDP and DINP, may be connected to high blood pressure in American children. In another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolismthe same researchers identified a possible connection between DINP and insulin resistance.

Unfortunately, eliminating these unproven and untested chemicals from the manufacturing world is difficult. Unlike with some chemicals—the ones used in medicine, for example–the chemicals used in plastic do not have to be widely studied before they’re used in consumer products. (For more, read Time’s article “These Plastic Chemicals May Be Just As Dangerous As What They Replace.”)

So is it finally time to say let’s ditch plastic forever? Well, no, not yet. These studies don’t prove definitively that there is this connection between chemicals in our plastics and health problems. The researchers even called for further studies to confirm their associations and to find possible solutions or interventions.

In the meantime, here are some smart tips for better using plastic food storage containers:

1) Don’t heat your plastics. If you’ve got leftovers stored in plastic, take them out and heat them up on a glass plate or bowl.

2) Hand wash. Putting plastic in the dishwasher can cause some of the chemicals to leach from the plastic–and into your food.

3) Don’t cut your plastics. Scratches and cuts allows these chemicals to transfer to your food.

4) Read the label. If the plastic says it’s microwave safe, it probably is. A recycle number of 3, 6, or 7 on the bottom indicates the use of the in-question chemicals, and these containers should head straight to your recycle bin.

5) Use glass. I’ve become a big fan of glass containers in recent months. In fact, I’m on a one-woman mission to rid my house of plastic. It isn’t necessarily for health reasons. I just like having vessels I can store, heat, and eat from without worry. Here are a few of my favorites:

UKonserve

UKonserve‘s 36-ounce Glass Rectangle with Silicone Sleeve. $19, ukonserve.com

pyrex-polka-dot-bowls

Pyrex‘s 4-cup storage containers. Available in 5 colors. $9 each, pyrexware.com

lifefactory-glass-containers

Lifefactory‘s 1-, 2-, and 4-cup containers with a nonslip silicone sleeve. $15-$20, lifefactory.com

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COMMENTS

  1. One Green Thing: How I’ve Stopped Using Disposable Plastic Zip-Top Bags | Cooking Light

    […] Is It Finally Time to Dump All Plastic Food Storage Containers? […]

    April 16, 2016 at 9:00 am
  2. What is BPA? | Cooking Light

    […] Is It Finally Time to Dump All Plastic Food Storage Containers? […]

    April 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm
  3. Vivapack

    Just wanna say thank you for the information that you have been shared on your site. well it is more better.we are a leading plastic food packaging suppliers, known for high-quality tamper proof plastic containers that helps to preserve your healthy meal.

    February 25, 2016 at 1:13 pm
  4. Bertha Harrington

    I love those storing boxes! They are just amazing, and doing a great job. I can use them for many different purposes!

    December 14, 2015 at 5:58 am
  5. Jake White

    I work for a plastic manufacturing company, and I liked these tips for better using plastic food storage containers. Most plastics are easily suited for microwaves, and as long as you read the label as was suggested, you should be just fine. Thanks for sharing this information, and for keeping us informed on plastic matters!

    October 16, 2015 at 12:10 pm
  6. Rina Merian

    I don’t have a microwave, I use a toaster oven for reheating, baking, roasting, toasting bread, keeping food warm and so on. I don’t miss the microwave at ALL (and I cook a lot). One less appliance to worry or deal with. A chemist who specializes in food packaging held a seminar at Virginia Tech at a Science fair. I asked him what he uses in his house and what he tells his students(He is also a professor), he responded glass only. He said the industry is trying to produce healthier packaging put hasn’t yet. I am trying to find out if the plastic that is used to make the inside of dishwashers including the baskets, if it leaks chemicals too? I am not trusting any plastic or cans, too many people are diagnosed with cancer and other diseases since they were invented.

    July 15, 2015 at 9:07 am
  7. Susan Wachman

    Thank you for the pros and cons comment of plastic containers….

    July 14, 2015 at 12:36 am
  8. Susan Wachman

    Thank you for the pros and cons comments about plastic wares…tupperware products used to be very popular here in the Philippines, now I cannot find them. My mother used to have Tupperware parties… maybe I’ll find jars.

    July 14, 2015 at 12:35 am
  9. Rml

    Actually, there is a huge difference between “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe” and the items being “microwave and dishwasher healthy safe”. “Microwave and dishwasher safe” means it won’t damage the container. It does not mean it won’t damage you or your health. If your containers have any scratches or imperfections (even those you cannot see) on them, they can damage the container, which then later can leach chemicals into your food, especially high fat foods. Plus high prolonged heat in microwaves and dishwashers do change the molecular composition of the plastic and degrades its structure making it more prone to leach chemicals. Why take the chance on you or your loved ones? Just use glass.

    July 13, 2015 at 12:23 am
  10. Sheri Delguidice

    All Tupperware microwave safe plastic products are lab tested and proven safe for heating and storage.

    July 12, 2015 at 11:09 pm
  11. Susie Russell

    This is ignorant. The plastic your produce and meat is stored in leaches more toxins than a hard durable plastic. Get some facts, know what your taking about before you use scare tactics. John hopkins says tupperware IS safe.

    July 12, 2015 at 10:23 pm
  12. Denise

    I only use and trust Tupperware microwave containers.

    July 12, 2015 at 8:37 pm
  13. Pat Chwalek

    Tupperware is safe to use, no BPA and tested to be safe. Glass breaks and can explode in the microwave and oven. And that is certainly not safe. Check out the new Tupperware, Not sold in stores, so if you think you are buying Tupperware in the store you are not buying the quality plastic that only Tupperware manufactures.

    July 12, 2015 at 7:49 pm
  14. Judith Adams

    I use a lot of plastic containers because I have a catering service and have sometimes a lot of leftovers, I use plastic ones but do not reheat in them ever. I do put my plastic containers in the dishwasher though. Guess I will pay more attention to the hand washing of them now. I have noticed a surge of glass containers lately at Costco, Walmart by Rubbermaid and Pyrex. HMMM might downsize my plastic containers some.

    July 12, 2015 at 7:40 pm
  15. Sonia

    When glass industry will provide us with spare lids for their products?

    July 12, 2015 at 7:36 pm
    • Karen

      I had a pyrex lid finally crack and was able to buy one on-line rather inexpensively

      July 12, 2015 at 10:19 pm
  16. April

    Unless of course you have tupperware we are bpa free and we have safe products that are used for microwave and have been tested to with stand🙂

    July 12, 2015 at 5:58 pm
  17. Karen

    What about the plastic bags that restaurants and some home cooks sous-vide in?

    July 12, 2015 at 5:54 pm
  18. mitzi frank

    I have a friend that uses exclusively glass for everything – because of the ease of cleaning and health also…

    July 12, 2015 at 5:50 pm
  19. Charlene Helgoth

    I have not used plastic in my microwave, ever. The disposable plastic containers are handy for picnics, ONLY. In the long run, investing in some glass containers with lids pays, they are not disposable, so no money down the drain. The idea of using canning jars is a good one too. Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, and a few other brands offer good products for reasonable prices. Just make sure they are not chipped or cracked before using and always make sure you heat to heat, not cold or frozen to hot glass. They can shatter and be a hazard as well.

    July 12, 2015 at 3:32 pm
  20. Sarah

    I had wanted to phase out my disposable plastic containers for a long time, but money is tight and glass containers are expensive, especially if they are water-tight. Then one day I realized that the best solution was the old one: glass canning jars. The shape is a little odd and the lids obviously aren’t microwaveable, but they’re glass and relatively cheap! Wide mouth pint jars are my default lunch container now.

    July 12, 2015 at 2:59 pm

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