Alternatives to Harmful Plastic Food Containers

Understanding the Health Implications of Plastic Food Storage Containers

Rarely do we make exactly the right amount of food for dinner and there is a need to store leftovers. However, plastic food storage containers could be harming your health, and they’re certainly not as eco-friendly as storing your food in glass or stainless steel containers. Read on to find out how to protect you and your family from the hazards of plastic food storage containers and alternatives for greener leftovers.


Why you should not heat food in plastic food containers

Scientists have been discovering health hazards associated with heating food in plastic containers. This summary of some of the findings should convince you that reusable food containers are a healthier choice, with the added benefit of being better for the planet:

  • Some containers can leach cancer-causing chemicals into foods when heated, especially if they were not originally meant to store food in the first place.[1]
  • Plastics made with bisphenol-A (BPA), especially polycarbonate plastic #7, can leach the chemical into food during normal use and when exposed to hot foods and liquids (like boiling water).[2]
  • PVC cling-film plastic has been shown to allow plasticizers di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate and acetyltributyl citrate plasticizers to migrate into the food.[3]
  • There are concerns that styrene from polystyrene food containers can migrate from the foam into the food or beverage, posing health problems for those consuming the product.[4]


Some great reusable food container options

Despite what you may think, choosing reusable food containers can be incredibly convenient and easy once you’ve got the right tools. Here are Ecolife’s picks for safe food storage containers:

  • Glass: This is an inert material that won’t leach anything to or from your food and washes easily over and over again in the dishwasher. Though it is breakable, with proper care your reusable glass food containers should last a long time. Choose ones with lids to make sealing and stacking really simple, and look for products that can go from fridge to freezer to oven to dishwasher without any trouble to further enhance their convenience.
  • Stainless steel: Another great inert food storage option, stainless steel is also perfectly safe for keeping your leftovers and packing lunches. Though you can’t microwave stainless steel, you can always transfer leftovers to a pot on the stove or a serving dish that is microwave safe. Just be sure to choose stainless steel food storage containers made BPA-free.
  • Natural fabrics: Today there are some fabulous and fun fabric food storage options on the market for lunch-packing. They look like disposable plastic baggies but are made with washable fabrics that can be used over and over again.
  • Safe plastics: Though not our favorite choice, sometimes plastic is the only way to go. So choose safe plastic food storage containers that are made with plastic #5 (polypropylene or PP), plastic #2 (high-density polyethylene plastic or HDPE), or plastic #4 (low-density polyethylene plastic or LDPE) which are safer than plastics #3, #6, and #7. Just be sure to wash these by hand (or on the top rack of the dishwasher) and don’t use them in your microwave.

Looking for reliable brands that make safe food storage containers and lunchbox products? These companies are great and provide a wealth of options from which you can choose depending on your lifestyle and eco food storage requirements:



1  Microwaves and plastic containers. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2010, from Canadian Cancer Society:

2  Heat causes chemical to leach from plastic. (2008, January 30). Retrieved July 8, 2010, from USAToday:

3  Migration of di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate and acetyltributyl citrate plasticizers from food-grade PVC film into sweetened sesame paste (halawa tehineh): kinetic and penetration study.(2007, April). Retrieved July 8, 2010, from Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Technology, Department of Chemistry, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece.:

4  Survey of Benzene in Food Contact Plastics. (1994). Retrieved July 7, 2010, from Food Standards Agency - UK:

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