When people need to pack their food, they almost always reach for plastic containers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for a long road trip or a class in a special food safety course — it’s hard to imagine food packaging nowadays without plastic containers. And yet, there are several people who criticise this method of storing food, considering it an unhealthy tradition. But, is there truth to their claims?
The Science At a Glance
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics offers an interesting (and somewhat disturbing) take. Several plastic packaging is manufactured using chemicals called phthalates. These substances are needed to soften the plastic (i.e. shower curtains, shopping bags or credit cards). According to the study, a good concentration of phthalates is enough to raise blood pressure a few notches. It’s also worth noting that the study involved children between six and 19 years old.
There’s another chemical at play here. Bisphenol A (BPA) is something that’s commonly deemed as safe plastic additives. Dr. Anila Jacob, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), believes otherwise.
According to Dr. Jacob, food always gets an extremely tiny bit of plastic from a container. This process is called ‘leaching’, otherwise known as migration. Even plastic manufacturers don’t refute this process’ existence: virtually all food packaging materials have substances that come into contact with food.
Now, the bad thing with BPA is that it disrupts reproductive development, at least in lab animals. But, recent research seems to refute such a claim. Even at much lower concentration, BPA does its work. In humans, levels of BPA are purportedly much higher than initially believed. Humans who have high BPA concentrations in their urine were found to be more vulnerable from diabetes, heart disease and liver toxicity.
It’s Not Just BPA And Phthalates
BPA and phthalates are just the tip of the iceberg. There are other materials that have raised concerns, including ‘greaseproof’ paper. These materials get their greaseproof property using chemicals known as perlfuorinated compounds. These substances are considered environmentally persistent and are linked to adverse health effects, both in humans and animals.
With the body of studies pointing to the potential dangers of plastic, maybe it’s time to look for an alternative to conventional food packaging materials.