Though the risk is low, there's growing evidence that food can be contaminated by harmful chemicals from some types of plastic. Many foods are packaged in these risky plastics, including fresh meat, gourmet cheese, and even some healthy foods and organic vegetables.
In fact, plastic as such isn't a problem. The polymer molecules from which it's made are far too big to move from the packaging material into the food. But plastic can also contain much smaller molecules that are free to migrate into the food. The plastic itself can slowly break down, releasing monomer, or other chemicals may be added to the plastic to give it the right mechanical properties. Two plastics of particular concern are:
Polycarbonate – often used to make food storage containers and bottles, and the epoxy resin used to line cans. It can release bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that many experts now believe can cause serious health problems.
PVC – used to make bottles, cling wrap and the seals for screw-cap jars. On its own, PVC is hard and rigid (it's used to make drains, guttering and downpipes), so extra chemicals called plasticisers are added to make it soft and flexible, in much the same way water added to clay makes it soft. Plasticisers can make up as much as 40% of the plastic material. Phthalates and epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO) are often added as plasticisers to the PVC that's used for food packaging. Again, recent research raises doubts about the safety of these compounds.
BPA and some phthalates are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic the body's natural hormones and thereby cause a raft of health problems. Infants and the very young are most vulnerable to exposure because of their lower body weight and because their growth and development are strongly influenced by hormones, the effects on health can even be lifelong. These effects have been seen clearly and consistently in experiments with animals, and when people or wildlife have been accidentally exposed to high levels of endocrine disruptors.
While these compounds are undoubtedly hazardous at high levels of exposure, scientific opinion is divided over the risk from the much lower levels that we're exposed to every day in our food. There is, however, growing scientific evidence that even at these lower levels of exposure, phthalates and BPA may be causing problems such as infertility, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
As a result, it is essential to seek a reliable supplier who provide high quality plastic food containers which will emit no or less harmful chemicals. Do not concern the money only and choose those low quality plastic food containers, as these may potentially affect your health. Remember, only by using high quality plastic products, can the risks of health damage be reduced.