Plastics play a crucial role in our kitchens. From storing to serving, there are numerous ways our food comes in contact with plastic everyday. The question is: are all these interactions safe? When it comes to heating our food in microwaves, the answer is potentially, no.
“When certain types of plastic are heated in the microwave, the substances and chemicals used in the manufacturing of the plastic can leak into your food,” explains Dr. Raissa M.Hill, DO, an osteopathic Family Physician from Stockton, CA. “This plastic residual can raise health concerns when ingested, especially in infants and pregnant women,” she adds.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe to microwave all plastics.
“It depends on the type of plastic and on the type of food you are heating,” says Dr. Hill. “Different plastics react to the microwave in different ways and fatty foods, in particular, like meats and cheeses, reach very high temperatures and may cause the plastic to warp or melt. This in turn has the potential to cause a chemical to seep out of the plastic and into the food.”
That’s why it’s important to know what to look for when determining if certain plastics are safe for the microwave.
“A good place to start is with the manufacturers labels on your plastic containers,” says Dr. Hill.
Every plastic container intended for use with food has to undergo stringent testing performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If it is determined that a plastic product is safe for microwave use, then you will see either a microwave-safe symbol or written instructions indicating the product is microwave-safe. The number system found on plastics pertains to recycling and does not indicate whether or not the plastic is safe for heating.
However, Dr. Hill warns that not all microwave-safe products are safe to use in the microwave in the same way.
“Though certain types of plastic wrap have received an FDA approved microwave-safe label, if it comes into direct contact with hot food (especially fatty foods) in the microwave, it may melt and release some of its contents into the food,” she says. “Therefore, you should leave at least one inch between plastic wrap and food before heating, or use alternatives like wax paper, parchment paper, or white paper towels.”
According to Dr. Hill, there are certain types of plastics to always avoid when heating food in a microwave. These include:
Dr. Hill also encourages people to follow these microwaving tips:
“The important thing is to always read the labels of your plastic containers carefully before you put them in the microwave,” cautions Dr. Hill “If you are unsure, then it is best to heat your food in a microwave-safe container made of a different material, such as glass or ceramic.”
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians (DOs) provide. DOs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.