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Is It Safe to Microwave Plastic Food Containers?

Nov 22, 2010

Placing plastic food containers in the microwave may be harmful to your health. Some containers are okay and others are not. It’s important to understand why plastic food containers are a problem and how to avoid the dangers.

The Danger of Using Plastic Food Containers

When you place some plastic food containers in the microwave, depending on the amount of time you are heating your food and at what temperature, chemicals used to produce the plastic may leak into your food. The FDA is aware of this problem and mandates that manufacturers of plastic food containers test their products to be sure that this danger does not exist.

When you see plastic food containers with a “microwave safe” label, this is an indication that the required testing has been carried out and that the risk for chemicals leaking into your food is low. The testing process takes into account the number of times a plastic food container is likely to be used, what types of foods will be heated in it, and how long it is likely to be placed in the microwave at specific temperatures.

Research on Using Plastic Food Containers

The damage caused by plastic food containers has been studied in animals. In these studies, high doses of toxic chemicals from plastics have led to reproductive illnesses, cancer and other health issues. It is believed, however, that the leaking of the chemicals in plastic in very small amounts is not a health hazard in humans. Plastic manufacturers cannot label their products “microwave safe” if the amount of chemical leakage exceeds FDA-mandated amounts.

How to Use Plastic Food Containers Safely

In general, if you do not see a “microwave safe” label on a plastic container, it is very likely not safe for heating purposes. Water bottles, plastic take-out food containers, and other plastic containers holding yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard, for example, are not designed to be placed in the microwave. Do not heat foods in these plastic food containers.

Generally, when in doubt, do not place plastic food containers in the microwave. Glass and ceramic food containers are good options, if they are labeled for microwave use. If you are heating microwave meals, these containers are generally intended to be used one time only. Using these plastic food containers repeatedly is not a recommended practice.

Additionally, the use of plastic wrap should also be avoided in the microwave. If you do use plastic wrap, you will want to make sure that it does not come in contact with your food. To be extra safe when covering your food, use a paper towel or a microwave-safe glass lid instead.

In general, plastic food containers and plastic products are not the safest way to heat your food in the microwave. If you can avoid this practice altogether, you can put your mind at ease about any possible risks resulting from leaking chemicals. At the very least, you will want to look for the “microwave safe” label on plastic products from trusted manufacturers.

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