Plastic in my pomodoro sauce?!
You know that plastic container in your kitchen? That one that has that permanent red stain in it from the time you stored your tomato sauce? You have washed it multiple times, hoping eventually it would come out, but it hasn't. How did it get that way?
When we put tomato sauce and other foods into plastic containers, especially without fully cooling them down first, the tomato acid is commingling with the plastic. And as you might have guessed, where there is tomato sauce in your plastic container, there is plastic container in your tomato sauce. Mmm, polymer-pomodoro ... probably not what you were intending on serving for dinner.
Plastics have a reputation as well as studies that show how they may be undermining our work to support our best health. BPA is familiar to most. We see labels saying "BPA free" on various plastic containers and even canned foods. BPA (Bisphenol A) is said to have potential effects as an endocrine disruptor, acting like a hormone in our body both blocking, enhancing or disrupting processes. BPA is linked with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity, learning impairment and other health concerns.
Aren't we OK if we look for the "BPA free" labels? Sadly, no. A study in 2011 showed that many of the BPA-free products replaced BPA with other members of the bisphenol family. These also have been discovered to have endocrine disrupting and estrogen mimicking qualities.
How do we stay away from or minimize our exposure? Ditching plastic that touches our food would be ideal but not practical. Here are some things to keep in mind:
If you can remember that acidity, heat, oil and abrasion are not friends to plastic, you will be off to a good start if you avoid them.
Acidity causes BPA to leach faster. This is why Fredrick Vom Saal, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A, says, "I won't go near canned tomatoes." Canned food lining contain plastic so avoiding canned foods in general helps.
The cooler the better. Heat increases the molecular activity of the plastic. Think water bottles in the heat of the car or delivery trucks. Keep plastic out of the dishwasher and microwave. Hand-wash plastic dishes and lids, even our blenders and food processor bowls. Move a microwave meal to a plate or glass container for heating.
Use plastic only for dry food storage or in the freezer.
If you have plastic that is foggy and dinged up from use, dishwashers or age, replace it. The bonds of the polymers and additives such as hardeners or softeners are not tightly bound molecularly; they break down and shed into our food.
Gradually change out plastic to glass storage containers. Reasonably priced options can be found at most department stores. If they have plastic lids don't fill them full to the top, or, use parchment paper as a barrier.
Use Ball jars or wash and reuse jars you purchased food in at the grocery store for your food storage. Remember food expands when freezing, so leave extra room and don't tighten the lid right away.
As my toxin training mentor, Lara, says, "Change what we can control so we have to worry less about the things we can't."