Using Plastics in the Kitchen
Name the variety of plastic and you will find it in your house in some form or the other. Apart from cooking, storing and serving food and drinking water, it has been found in various other things in our kitchen. What you might be thinking is not plastic, also contains some amount of plastic. For example, the paper plates are not all paper but coated with a thin plastic film. Plastic is sprayed on all commercial and organic produce so that it remains fresh. Most cardboard milk containers are also coated with plastic.
Most commonly found varieties of plastic in the household are PET, PS, PVC, PP, LDPE and HDPE. PS (polystyrene) is often found in foamed food containers. High density PE used for milk and water jugs, dairy product tubs, and plastic bags and low density PE is used for bread and frozen food bags, squeezable bottles, other types of packaging, and reusable containers. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is found in plastic wrap, especially commercial varieties used to package deli and similar items. PET (polyethylene terephthalate ethylene) is a common plastic used to package a variety of foods and drinks. PP (polypropylene) is found in bottles and food tubs, and reusable containers.
PET, PE and PP are usually safe to use but PS and PVC should be avoided at all costs in the kitchen. Always buy cling film and plastic food containers which tell you what type they are else they are unsafe. All plastic should be avoided under some conditions. You should never try to use any plastic product other than its intended purpose. Do not try to use disposable cups, plates, trays, cutlery, takeaway containers, ice-cream and yoghurt tubs as storage containers as they contain carcinogenic elements like styrene. Do not pour boiling hot food into ordinary heat resistant plastic containers. This heats up the plastic container which then produces harmful chemicals which leach into your food. Avoid using non microwavable plastic in the microwaves. Even if microwave resistant try and opt for glass or ceramic containers which are free of any metal coatings. Microwave-safe essentially does not mean that the said plastic would not release any chemicals when heated.
Discard used beverage bottles made of plastic as they are meant for single use only. Choose bioplastics which are a form of plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, etc. These can be replaced over conventional plastic packaging materials, dining utensils and food packaging. Avoid the reuse of commercial food packaging and drink bottles. Always wash plastic containers by hand. Choose alternatives to plastic packaging whenever possible like glass, stainless steel or glazed ceramic. Use all plastics whether PS, PE or PET judiciously in the kitchen and around the household so that you are protected from its harmful effects in the long run.
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