I accept the usefulness of plastic and the fact that we’d be pretty lost without it in a modern world but I do wish that, where alternatives are possible, food manufacturers would use them. Plastics are used in every phase of food production but for years now there have been questions over their safety. In some countries the phthalate chemicals used in packaging have been banned. Many believe that Bisphenol and phthalates, chemicals contained in many plastics, are believed to be “endocrine disrupters.” In other words they affect human hormones. When foods are wrapped in plastics or microwaved in plastic containers, these chemicals can leach into the food. Fatty foods like cheese are particularly susceptible. Until a few years ago all peanut butter was sold in glass jars but since most manufacturers have changed to plastic jars I now buy an organic brand which still use glass.
In America, The Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has warned consumers that various kinds of harmful chemicals can end up in food if microwaved. Have you noticed how the plastic on some containers breaks down when microwaved? They begin to look as though they’ve been rubbed with sandpaper and tiny fragments break off. Some of these will inevitably end up in your food.
Back in the days when I took lunch to work (I no longer work full days) I refused to eat food that had spent hours sweating in a plastic container. Sandwiches were wrapped in waxed papers since I am not keen on cling film either, and salads and the like were transported in glass or ceramics. I’d read around the subject and made my decision. However, in the interests of a balanced post I freely admit that Cancer Research UK is adamant that plastics do not present a health risk where food is concerned.
Nowadays I use glass storage containers, I freeze and cook food in glass and, when drinking bottled water, I will only buy that which is sold in glass bottles, such as Voss. I do occasionally utilise plastic containers for short term use, but I separate the food from contact with the plastic.
Of course, our over consumption of plastics is much in the news of late for another reason. Who can fail to have been moved by pictures of sea creatures choking on what they mistakenly assume to be plankton, or becoming entangled in plastic waste. It is estimated that in excess of 12 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year and in the same period Coca Cola produces 100 billion plastic bottles. Why? There are calls for a deposit scheme for plastic bottles, but why?
Why not just use glass?