Plastics in the Microwave

Over the years, consumers have come to appreciate the important role plastics play in keeping food safe and healthful. In the home, plastic wraps, storage containers and sealable bags help keep your family safe and your food fresh and free of contamination.

What may be less clear is how appropriate these containers are for use in your microwave oven. Dr. Charles Breder, an expert on food packaging and former supervisory chemist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), offers these guidelines:

  • Cook or reheat foods in containers intended for microwave use. These containers are designed to withstand the high temperatures that are possible when the foods you're heating contain fat or sugar.
  • Remove food from store wrap before thawing or reheating in a microwave oven unless the manufacturer has indicated that it's meant for microwave use. Some plastic trays, wraps or containers can melt or warp when the food gets hot, possibly causing spills and burns.
  • Most cold-food packages - such as margarine tubs, cottage cheese containers and foam meat trays - are not intended for microwave use.
  • Plastic wraps, placed loosely over bowls or dishes during rewarming, can help keep moisture in and provide even cooking. If the wrap touches the food, the wrap could get overly hot and possibly melt. Yet, as Dr. Breder notes, if you were to accidentally eat food containing melted plastic, you'll likely have an unpleasant eating experience - but you won't be harmed.

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