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Food Containers And Food Packaging

Usually, even those who understand the importance of using organic food products often overlook the packaging material. Nevertheless, packaging often comes into contact with food products. If a product can be heated in its packaging, the likelihood of toxic substances leaching into the food becomes much higher.

It’s essential to know that many hazardous packaging materials are still widely used, despite information about their dangers being publicly available. Understanding this, you will be more mindful when choosing food products, taking into account the packaging as well.

It is now known for certain that the chemical substances found in food packaging materials can lead to:

  • Obesity,
  • Cancer,
  • Cardiovascular diseases,
  • Various hormonal imbalances.

It is also essential to understand what safe alternative packaging materials can be used because we cannot do without packaging entirely.

Plastic food containers, even if they are paper-based, are not safe. It has become trendy to wrap products in brown paper made from recycled materials, symbolizing a company’s concern for the environment. However, one should never confuse environmental benefits with health benefits. Such paper emits highly toxic substances when heated. Its brown colour is due to ink. The FDA warns that heating such material poses health risks because highly toxic substances are released. If you add glue, which is often used to seal such bags, the health risks only increase. Using such bags for heating your oven or stove is also not recommended, even if you do it outdoors – toxins can get into your food and lungs.

The health risks of polystyrene (foam) packaging are even more evident. They are already banned in several North American cities, such as New York, Washington, and San Francisco. Polystyrene is a recognized carcinogen. It is currently unclear how coffee cups made from it were ever allowed. After all, it is impossible to avoid heating the cup, which leads to the release of toxins into the coffee.

What is better to use? Bring your favourite glass or stainless-steell coffee cup and ask to have your coffee poured into it.

Only the most progressive companies are transitioning to produce safer containers from plant-based materials, as they are not yet universally banned. However, even transitioning to natural materials does not make disposable tableware entirely safe. This material is treated, and whether it is white or brown, dyes are still used. Paper food containers often contain an elevated level of fluoride, indicating treatment with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances cause liver and kidney problems and immune system issues in laboratory animals. According to other data, these chemicals can cause fertility problems and thyroid disorders.

What is better to use? If the packaging is made of paper and has a label stating that it can be composted, such packaging is the safest for your health. Even better, bring your container and use it instead of disposable ones. Such a container should be made of high-quality stainless steel or glass.

Cans. Long ago, canned food was invented, and it was indispensable for long journeys because it allowed for food storage without a refrigerator. Over time, it turned out that the material from which the can is made gets into the food stored in it, making it unsafe. Then such cans began to be coated with a thin protective layer of bisphenol A (BPA). But soon it turned out that BPA is not safe either. In some countries, food containers made from it are already banned because they affect the endocrine system. The negative effects of BPA include:

  • The onset and development of cancer,
  • Infertility,
  • Various metabolic disorders since almost all of them are related to hormonal activity.

So, BPA has been recognized as a carcinogen, but it turns out that getting rid of it is not so simple; it is still too widely used. BPA continues to be used for food packaging, despite evidence that it causes breast cancer, and prostate cancer, can lead to infertility, and other metabolic disorders. Since it involves hormonal effects, no more doses are needed, and harm can be done even with very small doses of BPA entering the body. Over time, a cumulative effect occurs. It goes without saying that it is extremely difficult to remove such toxins from the body – we have no methods for eliminating plastic from the body.

What is better to use? Canned goods in glass containers.

Is all plastic the same? A vast number of liquid products are packaged in plastic. It is said that food packaging can only be made from food-grade plastic. Pay attention to the number, often it’s embossed on the bottom of the packaging. Plastics with numbers 1, 3, 6, and 7 are extremely hazardous to health. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics advises avoiding these types of plastics.

Plastic labelled as number 1 contains polyethylene terephthalates. This plastic is most commonly used for storing various consumer goods. It’s also often used for bottled water and food packaging. It’s soft, transparent plastic. It is less harmful for one-time use, but how many of us have never reused a plastic water bottle? I strongly recommend breaking this habit, at least if the bottle is made of plastic labelled as number 1. Reusing increases the risk of plastic leaching into the liquid you put in it, and polyethylene terephthalates are known carcinogens. There is also a risk of bacterial growth. Plastic number 1 is intended for single use only and should be disposed of and used for purposes other than storing food products.

Plastic labelled as number 3 is made from polyvinyl chloride, which can release phthalates. These substances have a negative impact on everyone, but they are most dangerous for children’s bodies as they can mimic hormones. They can cause obesity, and cardiovascular diseases, and inhibit development towards the male type (imitating the action of estrogens).

Plastic labelled as number 6 is often used in food containers. When heated, it releases styrene, which is linked to depression and chronic fatigue. In high doses, it has a negative impact on kidney function.

Plastic labelled as number 7 includes a variety of different plastics. It is often used in water container production. Theoretically, if the product is not subjected to heating, it can be stored in such plastic. But are you sure that these water containers were never exposed to sunlight during transportation and storage? After all, this is also a form of heating.

Also, pay attention to the labelling: it should indicate that the packaging does not contain BPA, as some plastics in this group contain BPA. We have already discussed the harm of BPA above.

If you can’t do without plastic packaging, use plastic labelled as number 2 – HDPE (high-density polyethylene). This is a rigid plastic and is considered one of the safest types of plastic. HDPE plastic is highly durable and does not break down under sunlight, intense heating, or freezing. It is officially recognized that HDPE does not react with a large list of food products, but there have been reports in the press that even this plastic can affect the contents when stored for an extended period. Even in water flowing through HDPE pipes, traces of this plastic have been found.

As for plastics labelled with other numbers, not all of them are of food-grade quality. Avoid storing food in plastic containers, especially if heating is possible. Any plastic carries potential risks, even if it is made from bio-materials.

What is better to use? It is better to use glass containers or containers made of high-quality stainless steel.

Packaging for vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits in plastic packaging can also contain plastic particles. If the film adheres tightly to the product, it means heating has occurred. How else would you seal plastic without heat?

What is better to use? Vegetables and fruits from the farmers’ market, without packaging.

Regarding plastic that is considered safe for use in the microwave. There is no such plastic. You have probably seen for yourself how after prolonged use, such dishes change their shape. Where do those plastic particles go? They end up in your food.

What is better to use? Microwave ovens are not safe in themselves, even if you use glassware in them. But if you still can’t give up the microwave, use glass containers in it.