Mixing Plastic and Food: An Urban Legend?
Word about the dangers of microwaving your food in plastic containers is everywhere, but it may be time for a reality check.
Phthalates & Bisphenol A continued...
"We are concerned about susceptible populations when it comes to
phthalates, such as children and babies," says Halden. "A recent study
suggested that there are developmental effects from boys stemming from exposure
to phthalates, but this is an area that is evolving; we don't have the body of
knowledge for phthalates that we have for dioxins, so we are a little bit
behind on understanding the risk they pose."
Bisphenol A (BPA) is another industrial chemical that is used in plastics.
It too has been around for years. According to the American Plastics Council
web site, "Bisphenol A is one of the most extensively tested materials in
use today. The weight of scientific evidence clearly supports the safety of BPA
and provides strong reassurance that there is no basis for human health
concerns from exposure to BPA."
But like most things, there is no definitive answer.
In an animal study published in the journal Endocrinology in 2004,
the conclusion was, "Although there is no evidence of adverse effects in
humans who consume bisphenol A orally from plastic food packaging, this
exposure and the extensive use of bisphenol A in consumer products warrants
more investigation of this compound at low doses for the purposes of risk
What the FDA Says
With all of these strange words being thrown around, we need the Food and
Drug Administration to play big brother to food packaging companies and keep a
watchful eye on their practices, and their plastic. How do they weigh in on the
"Generally speaking, any food that you buy in a plastic container with
directions to put it in the microwave has been tested and approved for safe
use," says George Pauli, associate director of Science and Policy at the
FDA's Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Any food packaging company that wants to put their food in plastic must pass
muster with the FDA first.
"What the industry does and runs by us for approval is simulated testing
to determine what could come out of the container," says Pauli. "We
assume there will always be something that will leach out of the container into
the food, so we look at how much someone could consume over a lifetime and
compare that with what we know about the toxicity of the substance."
Basically, the FDA determines how much of a certain substance can you
consume during your lifetime with little to no risk. So whether it's phthalates
or bisphenol A or another chemical, the FDA's job is to make sure that the
amount you're ingesting is within safe limits.