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Safer Ways to Store Those Leftovers

For anyone who has not read, Nicholas Kristof’s  Op-Ed column “Cancer From The Kitchen”, I have provided a link for your review.  I’ll just cut to the chase and say, it’s time to go through your pantry, or that drawer in the kitchen where you store all of your plastic containers – some of which you may have been holding onto for years -- and throw any marked on the bottom with a 3, 6 or 7 into the recycle bin. There is a plethora of information written about plastics and the dangers they may or may not present to humans. Recent studies have shown that when specific plastics come into contact with food, chemicals leach from the plastics into foods posing a risk to those who eat the food. The following is a list of chemicals that some plastics contain and a chart of which plastics are safe to use and which are not. The numbers on plastics can be found at the bottom of a plastic container, usually inside a recycling sign.

Chemicals Found in Plastics

Dioxins are endocrine disruptors in that they can interfere with hormone signals, they may affect reproduction and childhood development, and can be damaging to the immune system. They are toxic in low doses and are produced when #3 PVC plastics are manufactured and incinerated. The EPA estimates that the average American's risk of contracting cancer from dioxin exposure may be as high as one in 1,000.
Adipates and phthalates have been shown to cause birth defects and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems in mice. They are suspected of interfering with hormones and the reproductive development of baby boys. According to a 2000 National Institutes of Health report, one specific phthalate is anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Phthalates can leach out of plastic when they come into contact with foods – especially hot, fatty foods.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Many studies have found that BPA interferes with hormones and a March 1998 study in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) found that BPA simulates the action of estrogen when tested in human breast cancer cells. Exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, might contribute to behavioral problems in children like hyperactivity, induce obesity, and could enhance the risk of developing Type II diabetes. BPA is found in polycarbonate bottles, microwave ovenware, eating utensils and plastic coatings for metal cans.

Safer Containers to Use
Container Type
Unbreakable, Not Plastic
May be damaged by salty or highly-acidic foods.
Transparent, Not Plastic, Non-Reactive
Use only glass that is labeled for the freezer.

Pyrex and Anchor Hocking glass containers are labeled for freezer. Some Ball, Kerr, and Mason Jars are labeled as freezer-safe.

Read instructions about thawing before heating in oven.

Note: Coated lids contain BPA, so avoid direct contact with food. Check for a good seal on the lid.
Not Plastic, Not Reactive
Check that it is labeled for freezer use.
Check for a tight-fitting lid.
#2 Plastics (High-Density Polyethylene)

#4 Plastics (Low Density Polyethylene)

#5 Plastics (Polypropylene)
Unbreakable, Lightweight, Convenient
Transmit no known chemicals into food.

Choose only #2, #4, or #5 plastics. Some Tupperware containers are made from #2. Most Farberware, GladWare, Rubbermaid, Sterilite, Tupperware, and Ziploc containers are made from #5 Plastics.
Compostable Plastics
Unbreakable, Lightweight
PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA).
Ball Plastic Freezer Containers
Unbreakable, Lightweight, Lid has Gasket
Plastic Wraps (#2, #4, or #5)
Flexible to various shapes, Transparent
Choose wraps made from #2, #4, or #5 plastics and avoid those made from #3 (PVC).
Freezer bags
Flexible to various shapes, Transparent
Choose wraps made from #2, #4, or #5 plastics and avoid those made from #3 (PVC). Glad Freezer Bags and Ziploc Freezer Bags are made from #4.
Aluminum Foil
Flexible to various shapes
First wrap food in parchment paper to avoid contact with aluminum.
Use only heavy-duty type for freezing.
Freezer paper
Flexible to various shapes
Use plastic-coated only (**Need to check to see if that plastic coating has BPA or PVC.**)

Try to Avoid the Following Containers

Container Type
#3 Plastics (PVC)
Contains adipates and phthalates which have been shown to cause birth defects and other health issues in mice; one phthalate is a known human carcinogen. Phthalates are also suspected to interfere with hormones and reproductive development of baby boys.
#6 Plastics (Polystyrene / Styrofoam)
#6 plastics can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.
#7 Plastics
Many #7 containers (but not all) are polycarbonate and contain BPA, an endocrine disruptor that is linked with cancer and hormone and behavior disorders.



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A consultant, speaker, teacher and chef, Rebecca works closely with patients, physicians, and wellness professionals to include the powerful tool of nutrition in their medical arsenal.

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