Which Plastics Are Safe for Lunchbox Use?

With all the recent press about plastics leaching harmful chemicals into food, we want to be sure we’re using the safest materials in our children’s lunchboxes.

Get the scoop on which plastics are safe to use right here:

Chemicals that leach from plastic containers into food include suspected carcinogens or endocrine disrupters, which have been linked to reproductive system harm. Plastic used for containers can be identified by their recycling codes, as listed in this article.

Most wraps on pre-packaged foods lack identifying symbols. Here is a great list from The Green Guide Institute from which you can tell at a glance the plastics that are safe for food storage and those that aren’t:

As a precaution, you can unwrap these foods and store them in nontoxic glass, ceramic or steel bowls, or Ziploc bags (made of LDPE). Heat promotes leaching:

To be safest, never microwave or heat foods in plastics.

1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET): No known hazards.

2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE): No known hazards.

3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl): Plasticizers are added to many PVC products to make them flexible. These include phthalates — suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), DEHA, another possible EDC, was found to leach from PVC cling wraps into cheese. Grocery stores commonly use PVC to wrap deli meats and cheeses. Reyonds cling wrap is PVC. Some waters and vegetable oils are bottled in PVC. Ad PVC’s manufacture and incineration produces highly toxic dioxins, as does the PVDC used in Saran Wrap, according to Consumers Union.

4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE): No known hazards.

5. Polypropylene (PP): No known hazards.

6. Polystyrene (PS or Styrofoam): Made from styrene, a suspected carcinogen, PS also contains p-nonylphenol; both chemicals are suspected EDCs. Do not consumer fatty foods or alcoholic beverages from Styrofoam containers; styrene can leach into these substances. Some opaque plastic cutlery is PS, as well.

7. Other Resins, including Polycarbonate (PC): Most clear plastic baby bottles and 5-gallon water bottles are made of PC. Bisphenol-A EDC in PC, has been found in water and heated infant formulas bottles in PC, as well as food cans lined with a plastic film.

For some more great tips on how and why to reduce your use of plastics –and for which ones are the biggest concern for your health and the environment — read these new guidelines from The Green Guide Institute .

This article was reprinted from “The Green Guide” newsletter, a publication of The Green Guide Institute. Since 1994, “The Green Guide” has been a premier consumer source for practical everyday actions benefiting environmental and personal health. Want more practical solutions that benefit the environment and personal health? Subscribe online to The Green Guide.

Reprinted by permission of The Green Guide Institute.
Adapted from "The Green Guide" #77, The Green Guide Institute.


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

Arlene M. Baladi

Good information, thank you!

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

NO plastics are safe especially if you know how it's made and how it affects the environment.

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago


J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

good info

Ann M.
Ann M5 years ago

So, no Saran or Cling wrap? I'm still not sure just what I can use? Carrying lunch in glass containers (usually with plastic tops) or glass jars is a task if you don't drive. Is aluminum foil a reasonable alternative? Somebody help!

Darla G.
Darla G.5 years ago

I find it tough, do you use reuable plastics litke tupperware and reduce garbage, or buy individuals, NOT.... but at the same time I always worry which are OK Whick are not? Cant send glass in the kids lunch, tin in all forms is not easy to access.... plastic is easy but is it safe?
Friend makes cloth sandwich bags and snack bags, but even they are lined with waterproof stuff...... you know what that means,

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 years ago

thanks for the info

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for information.