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Which Plastic is Safe for Food Containers

We all hear about the dangers of the chemicals from plastics leaching into the water and foods from our drinking bottles and food containers. So, how do we know which ones are safe? There is no guarantee that any plastic is completely free of leaching. The best choice is to avoid plastics altogether. However, if you do choose plastics, some are better than others.

You have probably seen the numbers in a triangle that appear on the bottom of many plastic food containers. These numbers identify the type of plastic used.

Generally, the worst plastics are the ones with the numbers 3 and 6. These are not typically used for drink containers, however, cling wrap, disposable cutlery, and Styrofoam packaging (as take-out trays from a restaurant) are made from these plastics.

Those labeled Number 1 and 7 can be used, but with caution. Water, juice and soft drinks are often bottled in Number 1 plastics. While baby bottles and larger food containers frequently contain Number 7 plastic. Some contain BHA, some do not.

As a rule, plastics numbered 2, 4, or 5 are the best options. These have been found to leach the least amount of chemicals.

In addition, there are some general guidelines for plastics used in food containers:

1. “Microwave/dishwasher safe” only means that the product will not warp when put in these appliances. It does not guarantee that none of the chemicals will contaminate the food. A better choice for any reheating is to use glass containers, and wash plastics by hand in a mild detergent.

2. Avoid allowing your plastic food containers to be left in a hot car, or anywhere where they will be exposed to higher temperatures.

3. If you bring home food from a restaurant, immediately repackage the leftovers in a glass container.

4. Instead of Styrofoam cups, opt for stainless steel, glass or even bamboo.

5. The tableware in fast food restaurants is often made from Number 6 plastics. Avoid meals requiring utensils, or bring your own.

6. Bring water from home in a container you trust, rather than purchasing water that has been pre-bottled in a questionable plastic.

In conclusion, be cautious when choosing or using plastic food containers, as not all plastics are completely safe.

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