As might be expected, given the strength of the plastic industry, there is controversy. Although there have been more than 100 studies showing BPA to be a concern, the plastics industry says it is harmless. The FDA admits that “substances used to make plastics can leach into food,” but they maintain that the levels are safe. Safe?! Yes, leaching petroleum by-products and toxic chemicals in your food are safe–don’t worry! Now why doesn’t that sound right? If, like me, you find the FDA a rather lackadaisical regulator, why not follow these tips for safer plastic use? (There is also that little environmental issue with plastic to keep in mind.) And while some may want to skip the plastic-food relationship altogether, it is a hard habit to break. Many of these tips don’t exclude the use of plastic, but rather offer the safest options.
1. Know your plastics. Plastic items are marked with a resin identification coding system (the number surrounded by arrows), which stand for:
1 polyethyelene terephthalate (PETE)
2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
3 vinyl, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
4 low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
5 polypropylene (PP)
6 polystyrene (PS)
7 other (includes polycarbonate, acrylic, polylactic acid, fiberglass)
2. When you need to use plastic, these are the safer choices to use with food: 1, 2, 4 and 5.
3. Learn to recognize, and then avoid, polycarbonate (number 7) for food usage. Polycarbonate plastics are hard and clear. Common items made from this BPA-containing plastic are food storage containers, baby bottles, water bottles, bowls and tableware. (And the lining inside food and drink cans, by the way.)