Preserving Food has been with us for a Long Time
Food storage can be an important advantage to most families. Preparing and storing food can help us to provide nutritious food for later use.
Food storage has been with us for most of our human history. Before refrigeration early pioneers, as well as ancient cave dwellers, learned to smoke meats and preserve them for later consumption. With the advent of refrigeration, containers were developed to hold the food before consumption. Early storage containers consisted of glass containers, usually jars with rubber sealing lids to keep food safe for shorter periods of time. Tin food containers were also popular for dry food storage.
Later on, leftovers were kept in similar plastic containers and small fortunes were made by lady salespersons holding Tupperware parties. Tupperware was an early innovator in this space and has achieved quite the success in the home market.
As plastics became more prevalent, all types of them were fabricated into containers for food storage during refrigeration. As it turns out, not all plastics are suited to the job of food storage. Temperature is, of course, a factor. Containers suitable for general refrigeration at temperatures of 37 degrees or so, may not be so good for use in the freezer.
Plastics as we know are derived as bi-products of oil. Plastics can have many chemical properties which can effect the taste and chemical nature of the food contained. In general, the lesser the effect, the better.
Problems can occur by affecting the taste and, in some cases, adding chemical agents into the food itself . We shall explore some of the less desirable consequences and then suggest some alternative green friendly food containers.
Some popular containers are made out of plastic, which is a derivative of petroleum products. Plastic is of course a very low cost, useful material which is found in just about every product we purchase. It may be difficult to find any consumer item, and many commercial items that do not contain at least some plastic components.
But using some plastic containers for storing and heating our foods may be somewhat problematic. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been evaluating the safety concerns related to plastic packaging and storage containers for quite some time. Poly-carbonate plastic is often used to make food and beverage containers.
Plastic can also be used to line food containers and may be found commonly as a coating on “tin cans” (really steel) and paper containers. Yes, in the past most metal cans had a sort of metal taste when food was packaged in them. Using plastic liners seems to mitigate this taste issue and keep metal from getting into the food products stored in them.
Bisphenol A (BPA), is part of the chemicals that make up poly-carbonate plastics used to contain and coat food storage containers today. The use of these plastics is not insignificant, reportedly over two billion pounds of plastics containing BPA are produced every year.
What are the Possible Health Effects of Using BPA in Containers?
Since the late 1930’s it has been shown that BPA chemically resembles estrogen, and will bind to the same receptors in the human body as normal female hormones. These estrogen emulators have been shown to promote human breast cancer growth, and also to decrease the sperm count in animals such as rats and frogs. The Center for Disease Control performed studies that found traces of BPA in most urine samples in a 2004 study. The studies continue in both the USA and Europe to evaluate the effects of BPA in the human body.
Suggestions for Lowering BPA Intake from Storage and Food Containers
In 2012-2013, the FDA recommended that BPA containing plastics be disallowed for use in packing provided for children’s products such as infant formula, baby bottles and cups. Recommendations for BPA intake in the general population seem less clear. Some studies suggest that some BPA containing plastics may be possibly safe for general use.
How can I Identify a Non-BPA Plastic Container?
When plastics are manufactured they are produced with a “resin code” on the container. This is usually a number placed in a triangle shaped symbol on the side or bottom of the container. The code “7” , appearing on these containers suggest that BPA may exist in this plastic.
Is Heating of the Containers Problematic?
Studies have shown that heating these types of containers in microwave ovens, or storing very hot foods and soups, teas, coffee, and other beverages, may increase the uptake of BPA into the food or beverage that has been heated.
What Alternatives Exist for Non-BPA Food Containers?
Consumers who have concerns about BPA poly carbonate plastics, might want to use safe containers devoid of them. Glass bottles and containers, which are lead free, should be safe for the storage of most foods and beverages. Tops and covers for use on these glass containers should be evaluated as well for any plastics which might contain BPA’s.
Studies Continue – Maybe Forever
It seems that the possible health issues involved in plastic storage containers will continue into the future, with differing results coming from the FDA, CDC, and independent researches institutes and universities about these issues. It seems that it will take a lot of time and resources to eventually reach any scientific and definitive conclusions. Please standby for future developments.