Food safety is a chronic concern for everyone in China. After news stories about China’s cheap chemical-laden takeaway boxes and Bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s drinking cups and bottles, I have become more cautious about my choice of plastics.
At first, my family used only polyethylene-rated (PE) plastic for keeping leftovers, but we eventually converted to glass-only containers. Glass is safer than plastic to microwave and is a sounder environmental choice.
We are all bombarded with potentially toxic chemicals from what we eat, breathe, and drink; we should do everything we can to minimize the potential risks. Plastics, especially BPA, are a clear example of ubiquitous objects that research suggests may carry unintended health effects such as infertility, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. There is also an official position paper from 2009 by the US Endocrine Society that recommends reducing exposure to BPA and other “endocrinedisrupting agents.”
Here are simple things we can do at home to ensure food safety:
- Switch all your plastic food containers to glass.
- Only use plastic cling wrap that says “PE” on the label. Minimize contact of plastic wrap with food to minimize leaching of chemicals and avoid microwaving food (especially liquids) with a plastic wrap cover.
- Immediately transfer restaurant leftovers into glass containers at home. Many plastic containers leach dangerous chemicals into the food.
- Never reheat your leftovers or eat directly from the takeaway plastic containers, as the leaching effect is dramatically higher when exposed to heat.
- If you choose to use plastic containers, look closely at the plastic coding system (that triangle on the bottom with a number from 1 to 7 in the middle). Avoid numbers 3, 6 and 7; choose 1, 2, 4 or 5 instead.
- Minimize your intake of canned foods, because the plastic lining can leach into the contents.
- Chopstick hygiene is another big food safety and environmental issue in China. Plastic or metal chopsticks at a restaurant are a much safer choice than the reuseable wooden ones, which are very difficult to completely wash of all bacteria and viruses. This is also true of your home’s wooden cutting boards and cooking utensils. Disposable wooden chopsticks are far more hygienic, but pose an enormous burden on the environment. I prefer to use my own portable chopsticks from Muji. These metal chopsticks unscrew in the middle and collapse into a nice small box to carry around.
These environmental precautions can protect you and your family, as well as the environment.