12 Tips to Reduce Food Contamination from Packaging

The following guidelines should help give you ideas of how to avoid food contamination from packaging.

  • Plastic tends to migrate into fatty foods, especially hot fatty foods. Don't leave cheese wrapped in its plastic wrapper sitting in the sun! Cool leftovers before placing in plastic storage containers.

  • Plastic wrap should never come into direct contact with fatty food in the microwave. It is also important not to use leftover margarine or yogurt tubs in the microwave. Use ceramic or glass cookware instead.

  • Microwavable packages should be avoided. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) migrates from the packaging into the food, as do the adhesive components (and their degraded products) of the package.

  • A 1988 FDA study of microwavable packaging components, called heat susceptors, showed that low levels of the carcinogen benzene could migrate into food when heated.

  • Skip the boil-in-a-plastic bag foods, as well as sous vide foods--foods that are vacuum packed.

  • When you can, replace plastic cups and other eating utensils that come into contact with hot fatty foods with glass or metal. For example, instead of buying a plastic thermos, consider a metal one.

  • As much as possible, avoid food, water, and other beverages sold in plastic containers and bottles. For example, try to buy water from distributors who can deliver large glass jugs in convenient dispensers.

  • Package components can migrate into wet food, especially if the food contains alcohol, acid, or fat.

  • Use substitutes for bleached paper products that can come in contact with food, such as gold coffee filters and glass bottles.

  • Avoid packaging with antioxidant preservatives such as BHT, an additive with a questionable safety record.

  • Avoid buying imported food in cans sealed by soldering the soldering may contain lead. Lead-soldered cans are bumpy feeling under the seam, as opposed to seamless or welded cans.

  • Many cans have plastic coatings that line the inside of the can out of concern that the metal might contaminate the food. Eighty-five percent of the cans sold in the United States have such linings, and the plastic coating leaches substances into the food, which can disrupt the hormonal system. When you buy the cans there is no way to tell which cans are lined with plastic and which aren't.

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