Food + Plastic

Of Cutting Boards and Tupperware

Those of you who use cutting boards have probably heard about the wood vs. plastic controversy. If you haven’t, it is useful to know that bacteria will multiply on plastic. So if you are using a plastic cutting board for cutting raw chicken or other animal matter, keep this in mind before going on to use the same board for slicing the tomatoes. Don’t. But here is the really interesting part: Wood has natural antiseptic qualities which will prevent bacteria from multiplying. Care is required with wood cutting boards, too, but it is simply safer.

Some of this information might translate into the realm of storage containers. If the world stopped manufacturing Tupperware and other plastic storage containers right now, there probably would still be enough of them to build a continent. They’re not going to go away soon, or ever. The plastics industry will ensure that. But a great alternative is glass. Some friends and I have been experimenting, and from our experience, glass stores food better. Leftovers, fresh vegetables, and cheese may well stay fresher longer than in plastic, including plastic bags. Glass and ceramic are inert, nonreactive, which means they do not impart or absorb odors or other substances. Whereas plastic (granted there are many kinds, many properties) can leach unfriendly things into the food, like BPA, a known hormone disrupter. Warnings you may have heard are particularly true of heating food in plastic. Fats, especially, can take on toxins from the heated plastic-an avoidable risk.

It’s true that substances used to make plastics can leach into food,” said Edward Machuga, PhD, a consumer safety officer in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “But as part of the approval process, the FDA considers the amount of a substance expected to migrate into food and the toxicological concerns about the particular chemical. The agency has assessed migration levels of substances added to regulated plastics and has found the levels to be well within the margin of safety based on information available to the agency. The FDA will revisit its safety evaluation if new scientific information raises concerns.”

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