We've all heard it: Don't use plastic in the microwave. An old wives tale, you say?
Yes and No.
If you're reheating some Chinese takeout or a tub of margarine, think again. Those containers are not meant for microwave-man-handling. The FDA only approves certain plastics for use in the microwave. Prior to approval of any plastic materials, the FDA conducts tests to ensure that hazardous substances won't leak into food.
Only containers that pass the FDA's test and display a microwave-safe icon -- or that have the sentence on the product that confirms they're approved for use in microwave ovens-- are truly safe.
What's interesting is that Plasticers.org refutes any harmful side effects associated with plastic-leakage into food. Even if they are correct, it is still important to be aware of the following recommendations by Harvard Medical School:
- Most takeout containers, water bottles, and plastic tubs or jars made to hold margarine, yogurt, whipped topping, and foods such as cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard are not microwave-safe.
- Microwavable takeout dinner trays are formulated for one-time use only and will say so on the package.
- Don’t microwave plastic storage bags or plastic bags from the grocery store.
- A recycle symbol does not mean a container is safe to use or reuse in the microwave oven. Only a microwave-safe icon or wording to that effect does.
- Before microwaving food, be sure to vent the container: Leave the lid ajar, or lift the edge of the cover.
- Don’t allow plastic wrap to touch food during microwaving because it may melt. Wax paper, kitchen parchment paper, or white paper towels are alternatives.
- If you’re concerned about plastic wraps or containers in the microwave, transfer food to glass or ceramic containers labeled for microwave oven use.