The Effects of Using Plastic in Microwaves

Written by noel shankel
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The Effects of Using Plastic in Microwaves
Always make sure the plastic container is microwave safe before using it. (micro wave oven image by mattmatt73 from Fotolia.com)

There are many benefits to using a microwave oven, including the ability to heat and reheat food at a much faster pace than conventional ovens. Plastics used in microwave ovens must be approved by the FDA to ensure they will not release any harmful toxins into the food. Consumers should always follow proper heating instructions when microwaving foods with plastic. Proper heating instructions can be located on the food container.

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The Label

According to the website Plasticsinfo.org, some companies label their plastic packages as being microwave safe. This label comes in a variety of fashions. Some simply print "microwave safe" on the package itself, while others may print a symbol of a microwave. Other plastic packages will supply heating directions indicating that the plastic container is safe to use in a microwave. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created safety standards for plastic containers intended to be used in microwave ovens. Packages that do not contain any type of safety label have not been properly tested or approved by the FDA.

Take Cover

Microwave ovens are often used to reheat foods that have already been cooked. These foods are often placed in a bowl or on a dish. Using a sheet of cling film and placing it over the food will allow the meal to retain moisture it might loose otherwise. Plastic covering will also prevent the food from splattering within the microwave oven itself and allow the meal to be heated more evenly. However, the cling film should be at least an inch above the actual food. Microwaves heat food a lot faster than they heat plastic. If the plastic were to come in contact with the food, the heat from the food might melt it.

No Need To Worry

An e-mail allegedly linked to Johns Hopkins University began floating around the Internet in 2004 claiming plastic containers used in microwaves will release dioxins, a toxic compound that can be harmful to humans. However, according to Harvard Medical School and Plasticsinfo.org, there is no truth to this claim. Edward Machuga, who works for the FDA, has also debunked the rumour. Dioxins only form at extremely high temperatures that microwave ovens do not reach.

Warning

Some forms of plastic should not be used in a microwave. For example, water bottles and plastic containers used to hold whipped toppings or yoghurt are not microwaveable safe. Never use plastic bags such as those you get from grocery stores in a microwave. Microwaveable dinner trays that hold prepackaged microwaveable foods should only be used once.

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