Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Could you reheat that please, but hold the plasticizers

Yesterday my mother asked about using plastic wrap in the microwave. She uses it when reheating or warming food, and her reheated food is moist and her oven clean. I don’t, and my oven is encrusted with splatter and my food dry. I don’t know how important covering food is for reheating (other than the splatter) but I just don’t like to use more plastic in my daily life than is needed. I muttered something about probably not a problem, since reheated plastic wrapped microwave food items are not part of her main diet, but then thought maybe I ought to give it a bit more thought.

I know this is one of those questions that has been around for years, and there were lots of websites with titles like “Truth or Fiction” and “Big hoaxes”, and “Plastic Myths” that popped up when I asked Google about it. But the most informative site was one form the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (see excerpt below.) Basically, the FDA acknowledges that substances like diethylhexyl adipate (DEHA), a chemical used to make plastics more flexible, can and do transfer from plastic to foods during reheating. The controversy (if there is one) is over how much and how toxic.

But most seem to agree that it if one wants to avoid or minimize their ingestion of contaminants from plastic, they heed the following advice:

According to the LSU article on “What’s Safe for Microwaving”:

"• Use only cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers and all plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use.

• Don’t use margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls and other one-time use containers in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.

• Use safe items like plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave-safe paper towels. Do not, however, let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.

• Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.

In addition, the American Plastics Council recommends that carryout containers from restaurants should not be used in the microwave. These containers may melt or warp, which can increase the likelihood of spills and burns."

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