Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cutting out the crap: the dreaded BPA.. in plastics

Bisphenol A, or BPA as it is commonly known, is a harmless seeming but nasty little plastic that seems to be in almost everything.  My blog post on its effects on humans and its prevalence in canned foods can be found here.

So I won't go on any more about how evil it is.  Take my word for it or type "BPA health concerns" into your favourite search engine and that will have you reading, and weeping, for hours.

It was the concern over BPA contained in drink bottles, particularly baby bottles, and its links to serious health issues which had plastic manufacturers racing to eliminate it from their products.  Now, thankfully, baby bottles, drink bottles, lunch boxes and most plastic food containers are labelled "BPA free".  

I have been living under a rock for a few years so this one passed me by.  Better late than never I guess!

So I decided to clean out the pantry; clean out the plastics cupboard; clean out my life.

Will your kitchen cupboard pass the BPA test?  My advice is, unless you're sure your plastic containers are BPA free and you remember seeing the little sticker on it that read "No BPA", if they're a few years old or you bought them from a $2 shop, you might want to turf them and buy new ones.  It might cost you $60 to buy ones that are all shiny and new and stackable, however the $60 will be well worth it, especially when BPA has been linked to cancer.  

Unfortunately there is no mandatory labelling of BPA in plastics and from what I have read, there isn't agreement on which numbered plastics contain it.  For example, Wikipedia says that plastics with the recycling numer 1, 2, 4, 5 & 6 are unlikely to contain it, but 7 is a catch all "other" so it could contain BPA. 

However another site says that 2, 4, 5 & 7 are safe.  All agree that 3 definitely contains BPA.

However the Decor website says that the recycling number does not indicate whether BPA is in a plastic product or not. So I recommend only buying and using plastic containers that are labelled "BPA free".

I used this education as an opportunity to tidy my plastics cupboard which had been a disaster for years.  I didn't matter how often I tidied it, a little house fairy would come along and destroy all order. Now my containers are shiny and new and stackable.

I turfed the take away containers.  Don't keep them as they probably contain BPA too.  You might even want to reconsider even buying your food in these things, but that opens up a whole minefield too.

I also turfed the plastic rice cooker; the plastic microwave steamers; all the random bowls and containers I'd managed to accumulate over the years.

Frankly, I'm a little suspicious of most plastic containers now, since harmful chemicals can leach into the food, especially when heated.  I never heat plastic containers with food in them.  if you want to reheat frozen food, tet the food sit for as long as you can remove it from the plastic and put it into crockery or glass.

And I never put hot food into plastic containers (say, before freezing).  I always let cool first and then freeze.  

Same with zip lock bags.  I did email Glad last week about their products and they responded that no Glad products contain BPA, which is a relief, however I think it is good practice just not to heat plastic containing food at all, because phthalates can also leach into food when heated.

Good Housekeeping conducted a test on plastic containers and whether any BPA leached into food and the results are here. Although some Glad products (from the US) showed they had BPA in them, I reiterate that Glad confirmed that none of their products in Australia contain BPA.

Great alternative containers for microwaving and heating food are Pyrex.  I've had 2 Pyrex bowls for a zillion years and they just keep on going.  They now also make containers with funky plastic lids so you can cook, freeze and microwave food in them.  Again, I always remove the plastic lid but otherwise they're a good solution.

Decor also produce a good glass container with a BPA-free plastic lid.

Or go retro: bring out the crock pot, the corning ware, and marvel how some things really were better before innovation ;-)

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