Cookware & Food  Storage

Fast Facts

  • Plastic wraps and storage containers can leach chemicals into food. 
     

  • Using a microwave oven will accelerate the leaching of chemicals from plastic containers in the food while heating.
     

  • When heated to high temperatures, non-stick cookware containing PFAS can emit toxic fumes into the air.

Fresh foods or leftovers that need to be refrigerated should always be stored in non-leaching wraps or containers. Plastic wraps, bags, or containers, while practical and resistant to breakage, may contain chemicals or heavy metals that can leach into foods or liquids.  Research suggests that plastics with recycling codes #1, #3, #6, or #7 should always be avoided for storing food.

Bisphenol A (BPA), used in hard, clear polycarbonate plastic containers bearing the recycling code #7, is a known endocrine disruptor and linked to both breast and prostate cancers. Almost all metal and aluminum cans are lined with BPA. 

 

Phthalates, compounds that are also endocrine disruptors and possible carcinogens, are commonly used in plastic food storage items to make them more flexible. Many other worrisome chemicals are used in Styrofoam (polystyrene) and plastic wraps, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC).

Black plastic products used for food contact items have recently come under scrutiny for the presence of brominated flame retardants, chlorine, PVC and heavy metals. Products tested included thermos cups, drink stirrers, coffee cup lids and take out food containers.

The recycling of black plastics is a challenge for domestic waste steam processors, where they only account for about 15% of the plastic, so the demand for black plastics is being met by sourcing material from the plastic housings of end-of-life electronic and electrical equipment. 

 

Take-out food containers and packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes are typically lined with perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS), short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. which make them water and grease-resistant. PFAS are persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic to humans.

 

Note: It is also advisable to use non-plastic containers in the microwave, as heating has been shown to accelerate the leaching of plasticizing chemicals into food. Paper plates, glass, Corning Ware, or lead-free ceramic are all safe choices for use in microwave ovens.

Cookware:

 

Non-stick cookware contains perfluorinated chemicals. When heated to high temperatures, they can emit toxic fumes, and scratched non-stick cookware may contaminate food with loosened particles. These chemicals are highly persistent, are found in the blood of 99 percent of Americans, and never break down when released into the environment.  Although, as noted in the section above, these chemicals are found in many consumer products, but are particularly problematic for cooking use.

Although the original PFAS chemical used to make Teflon was phased out in 2014, other brands of nonstick cookware are still being produced with similar chemicals. Very small amounts of PFAS have been linked to cancer as well as immune and reproductive system damage. Good choices for cookware and bakeware are stainless steel, cast iron, enamel-over-cast iron, and glass.

Things You Can Do:

Good alternatives to plastic wrap are unbleached deli/bakery sheets, waxed paper and parchment paper. Glass and stainless steel storage containers are always a safe bet, and it’s wise to transfer food packaged in plastic to one of these.

 

Look for safe-coated fabric wraps which are now widely available for wrapping lunches and leftovers.

Plastic bottles labeled “BPA-free” are now found everywhere, but manufacturers are often using “regrettable substitutes” BPS, BPF and HPF, all from the same bisphenol family of chemicals, that have similar or even more serious health concerns. Choosing glass or stainless reusable bottles is always a safer solution.

Cooking and Food Storage Products Resources
 
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