4 Steps to Choose Food-Safe Plastic Containers

salad in plastic container
Plastic containers with fruit

Plastic food containers and packaging commonly leach chemicals into the food or liquid they contain. Like almost everything else in life, there are good and bad plastics. Bad plastics leach toxic chemicals when used in food or beverage applications. Good plastics have not been shown to leach anything bad (at least not yet).

Follow these tips to minimize health risks when choosing food-safe plastic products.

  1. First, look near the bottom to find the Resin Identification Code (the number inside the small triangle)
  2. Choose numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5. Products marked with number 1 are meant to be recycled after one use. Reusing them could cause germs to grow inside of them. Items marked with number 2, 4, or 5 are best if seeking a container to reuse.
  3. Avoid numbers 3, 6 or 7. Also avoid PC or PVC, which stand for polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride, respectively. Also avoid anything that lacks identification (some small plastic containers may have their information on the main packing they come in).
  4. Never use plastic shopping bags (or any plastics not meant for food storage) to directly store your food without storing it in a food-safe container first. Some of them contain toxic metals which can leach into your food if not handled properly. Use food-grade zipper bags instead.

Contact the manufacturer if you have any questions about products’ food safety. If you are not satisfied with their answers, avoid them.

When in doubt, choose food-safe glass, stainless steel, or ceramic with lead-free glaze instead.



— By Teresak Roeksbutr, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.