A simple search on the net, or even by asking someone learned will give you enough indication that when it comes to packaging, storing, microwaving, consuming, boiling, freezing or baking GLASS is the best material to use. Here is a look at why other packaging is bad, and finally why glass is so good.
The food that we consume are always touching plastic, from raw material transport to production lines, shipping and storing. The biggest factor with plastic packaging is that the container leaks little particles of chemicals to the food that a supposedly not good for human consumption. So, if any, what are the actual hazards of having plastic so closely interconnected with the food that we consume?
There is a lot of different kinds of plastic, and manufacturers add different chemicals depending on how exactly they want their plastic. It could be for durability, storage, minimum production costs, flexibility etc...
Usually these components consist of Bisphenol A (BPA), Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE) and Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA). And studies have shown that these chemicals alter hormonal expression in animals and humans. These chemicals are grouped under Endochirne-Distrupting Compounds (EDCs) and the hormone distributions that they effect include oestrogen activity, anti-androgens, thyroid hormone homeostasis interference and prostate gland development in foetuses, infants and children. Some of the plastic additives are chemicals called Monomers which research has shown to have cancer causing compounds along with mutation inducing elements.
Out of all these chemicals BPA seems to be causing the biggest health scare stir as it known to reduced brain development and this is particularly scary for mothers with children feeding from plastic Sippy cups, to plastic spoons and carrying water in plastic bottles.
The reality of this situation is that these chemicals are controlled by the manufacturing industries themselves and as an end consumer it is virtually impossible for us to do anything about it other than starting a revolution. But for a more peaceful approach to things we can manage the plastic we use at home to eat out of, microwave and store food.
1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) - This plastic is used to store soft drinks, pickles, water, beer, mouthwash, ketchup, jam to name a few. The plastic is considered safe as microwave plates and oven friendly items as well. However it does leak a chemical called Antimony a metalloid element that is considered toxic if consumed. The chemical is leaked faster if the container is microwaved and some of the health risks are diarrhoea and stomach ulcers.
2. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) - This is used for shrink wrap our food. However the plastic is versatile and can be rigid and used as a container to store pills, spices etc. The types of Phthalates that leak into fluid from this plastic, namely - Di 2-ethylexhly Phthalates (DEHP), that studies have shown to cause problems with immunological responses and airways.
3. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) - Milk bottles, water, juice, shampoo, conditioner, detergents are some of the products that use thins plastic. Even though it too leaks chemicals into food when microwave, exposed to UV rays or boiling water it is considered a low hazard plastic for adults. The risk her lies for infants and young children, so pregnant mothers and young children will be better off away from this.
4. 4.Polystyrene (PS) - Rigid container (eg - Yoghurt, Certain ice cream), plastic cups, plates, bowls cutlery are some of the things in your household that could have PS. This is one of the plastics you have to stay away from because the chemical Styrene leaks and is a known cancer causing agent. The main cancers are leukaemia and lymphoma, and Styrene can also act adversely on the brain in the long run. Other organs effected are liver, kidney, stomach.
5. Other (Mix of resins) - Used for custom packaging, ketchup bottles, big water bottles, some milk containers and certain juices. This is one of the most dangerous ones as it is a mix of resins and can have a multiple myriad of chemicals. The most dangerous being Bisphenol A (BPA) , known to hamper foetus development, hormonal changes, ovary egg development, lowered sperm count and prostate development. It has also been linked to decreased metabolism rates and insulin resistance.
As with plastic the chemical responsible for the most worry in canned food is also Bisphenol A (BPA) . The chemical compound is used in the plastic as a lining for the aluminium container. Out of 50 cans tested 46 tested positive for BPA.
There is also the problem that canned foods are much lower in nutrition, because of the preservatives used in preparation. Most canned food is prepared in inadequate circumstances.
Aluminium is also a substance that is known to leak as documented with pots, pans and cans. For manufacturers an aluminium containers makes sense because it is lightweight, easy to produce and economical way to package their product and sell. However consumers are unaware that most products are sealed first in the aluminium can and thereafter cooked in the process leaking materials faster due to increased heat levels. Increased aluminium accumulation in the body can lead to decreased cognitive function notably Alzheimer's. Canned food is also especially bad if the food is acidic, and even there is meat and seafood the best thing will be to used it as quickly as possible or not at all.
Glass has been proven to be the best packaging for food in terms of health, taste and the environment. As far as manufacture goes glass draws its strength from the raw materials of earth and it is 100% recyclable making it good for the environment we live in.
This natural quality of glass is improved by the stability it provides as it can withstand extreme heat and cold. By withstanding it means glass does not leak chemicals into the food and keeps air tight food fresh for a long time not interfering with the taste and odour of the food inside.
It is an excellent barrier to the outside world as it is nonporous and impermeable, it also had a zero rate of chemical interactions maintaining the food inside correctly. Because glass is viscous when heated, packaging can take any form or shape, and certain high end products are packaged with unique handmade glass containers.
Glass containers and packaging comes in the form of bottles, jars, cups, jugs, mugs, glasses for various beverages, plates, pans to cook, trays to bake and microwave, baby products etc... Nearly all of these containers and packs are safer to use than their alternatives.
Switch to Glass
There is nothing we can do about the manufacturing end of the food that we eat. They are more often than not, packaged in plastic and cans and are not entirely safe because like most of the world all the big corporations are interested in is a higher profits.
What we can do however is control what we can. So there are always things we can do at home to minimise the plastic and metal interaction with food. Below are tips for switching to glass in the everyday household. This is more important for pregnant mothers and homes with children.
- Try to use glass bottles where ever possible. Store water in wine bottles, glass water bottles as and when you can.
- When getting take away food, never leave leftovers in the container they came in. Transfer the food when eating and storing to glass containers.
- When drinking warm liquids avoid using plastic and metal.
- When using the microwave to heat or cook food, always use microwave safe glass containers.
- When baking use glass trays that are designed for baking.
- If possible take the time to replace the aluminium pots and pans for cooking in the house with glass and Pyrex.
- When storing juice in the fridge always use glass bottles.
- Try to store milk in the fridge in glass bottles (remember to stick the expiration date on the fridge)
- Avoid heating any liquid or food always try to do so in glass containers.