February 25, 2010 1:12 PM   Subscribe

What's the latest thinking on the safety of plastics used in association with cooking?
posted by devnull to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard you shouldn't wash them in the dishwasher and shouldn't microwave.
posted by xammerboy at 1:15 PM on February 25, 2010

Response by poster: To add some context, let me add in microwaved food cooked in plastic, silicone baking moulds, and of course plastic cookware and spoons. Asking for a friend.
posted by devnull at 1:22 PM on February 25, 2010

Best answer: Silicone rubber is one of the safest materials around - pretty much totally inert and stable, contains nothing hazardous; the only silicone-related health issues I can think of were questions raised a few years ago relating to breast implants, and those media scares largely came to nothing, at least regarding negative effects of silicone on human health.

As far as plastics and microwaves go, you shouldn't use plastic containers in microwaves unless they're labelled as being microwave-safe. Microwave-safe plastics are those which have been thoroughly tested and certified such that they will not leach anything during normal use.

Your friend is safe.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's a link to some test results on microwave plastics with respect to BPA and phthalates. The plastic containers they tested didn't release significant amounts of either.
posted by zoel at 1:53 PM on February 25, 2010

Best answer: "The latest thinking" really depends on who is doing the thinking, what your risk tolerance is, and whether you are in the process of gestating or raising a child.

There's increasing concern about developmental toxicity from BPA and phthalates. The concern is greatest for pregnant woman and small children. If you trust the chemical industry, then you should continue to cook using all manner of plastics. If you trust the increasing body of scientific literature on the topic, you should avoid the use of polycarbonate plastics in food contact applications. (Polycarbonate plastic is the hard stuff that CDs and eyeglasses are made out of it. It is not recyclable and so generally has no recycling symbol or a "7" which indicates "other".)

Just because something is labeled as "Microwave Safe" that doesn't make it so. It just means that the manufacturer is allowed to call it safe under standards that were established two or more decades ago and that are currently under mounting criticism.

Nick Kristof has a good column about this today. Bottom line: it's best to avoid using plastics in cooking, from a sense of precaution if nothing else. However, if using plastics in cooking adds significantly to your quality of life and if you aren't concerned about things like breast or prostate cancer in children, then you should continue using it.

Oh, and Bea Arthur on silicone. That's not plastic, and is very inert. I use it lots.
posted by alms at 2:25 PM on February 25, 2010

Silicone rubber is one of the safest materials around
Microwave-safe plastics

Those two are the main beliefs right now, if you follow exactly what the companies that produce these products are allowed to market them as. We only know what we know, or rather we can only label things as we can prove them. In another 5 years we may find out that the Silicone and the Microwave safe stuff is actually worse for you.

Personally, I try to never use plastic containers, but that's just a principle of mine.

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
-Albert Einstein
posted by zombieApoc at 8:26 PM on February 25, 2010

Best answer: In another 5 years we may find out that the Silicone and the Microwave safe stuff is actually worse for you.

That's the sort of hand-waving that gets us nowhere. In another five years, all kinds of people will have 'found out' all sorts of things, many of them contradictory, all with different degrees of relevance, seriousness, credibility or usefulness. The media's cherry-picking of studies that seem to show some danger associated with some commonly-encountered substance doesn't help. You never read about how safe PET (polyethylene) is; buit who's interested in that kind of story? BPA is one of the rare cases where evidence of harm has been strong enough to warrant some kind of regulatory action, and even that has been largely precautionary. The media, as usual, have done their level best to scare us all to death about it. That's their job.

It's fine to avoid all plastics based on the recent BPA scare. But by doing so, be aware that you're not acting on any scientific basis; you're doing it out of superstition, the same irrational fear that makes you shrink back from all dogs because one bit you when you were a child. Or worse still, you're acting because you're choosing to believe someone else's ill-formed opinion.

And be aware when reading scientific studies (or abstracts thereof) that they should be interpreted in aggregate, and that any statements that qualify their conclusions are there for good reason.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:15 AM on February 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have kept away from plastic before the BPA studies came out. Eating out of a container created by oil and chemicals and/or taking that container and throwing it in a microwave never did *sound* smart or safe to me. So can others view me as some scared little mouse that sits in a corner because a dog took a nip at me when i was 3? Sure, but I don't feel like following the Pied Piper.

I'm not saying that everyone should be afraid of everything just because it's not Organic or "natural", but what I am saying is that you need to take every study, for or against a product, with a grain of salt. Always look at who is actually putting the study out; there are plenty of examples throughout history of companies paying for studies of their own products.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:29 AM on February 26, 2010

FDA Cautions Against Chemical In Plastics
If you use hard plastics for just about anything, you've probably been exposed to the chemical BPA. It's in Tupperware, water coolers, some baby bottles. It can leach(ph) into foods. Almost all of us have some traceable amount of it in our bodies. And now the FDA is saying that it's dangerous, but not dangerous enough to ban it - dangerous enough to try to reduce our exposure to it. But how do you do that when it's just about everywhere? And if it's such a problem, why did the FDA wait so long to warn us about it?
posted by MesoFilter at 10:46 AM on February 26, 2010

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