Are any plastic wraps or containers really “microwave safe”?

You’ll find answers that say “yes” or “no,” depending upon which Internet site you read. The fear is that harmful chemicals might migrate from the plastic into the food.  (Chemicals called dioxins are most feared since they’re known to be highly toxic.) The opposing views on this subject may leave one feeling that more research needs to be done.  Meanwhile, you may choose to avoid microwaving plastics. At least, take these widely recommended precautions:


1) Don’t microwave using any plastic container or wrap that is not labeled “microwave safe.”  Those products have met rigorous government standards. Don’t use unmarked takeout containers, water bottles, or plastic tubs for microwaving. Most are not microwave safe.  


2) As the plastic wrap carton tells you, plastic should be at least 1 inch from the food, not touching it. Saran Wrap is fine if it’s not touching the food, says food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter. says that Saran Wrap has been reformulated so that it no longer contains any substances that could release dioxin.


Our experience has been that it’s not so easy to control the placement of plastic wrap. It may slip down and touch the food.  Why not just put a ceramic plate or bowl over food going into the microwave?  You can also cover the food with paper toweling or waxed paper. 


3) Don’t save and reuse the plastic trays that come with frozen meals.  These are intended for one-time use.  The plastic may not be stable enough to withstand a second heating.


It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to move food from a plastic container to a ceramic or paper bowl, so why not be conservative and do it?




Catherine N. Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Food Science


The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide “Microwaving food in plastic: Dangerous or Not?” “FAQs: Using Plastics in the Microwave” Urban Legends  “Microwave Ovens, Plastic Wrap and Dioxin – Analysis


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