1/18/10 Update: The FDA is now concerned about BPA and about to embark on a two year study. MindfulEats advice remains the same: don't wait for the outcome of the study - avoid it. If the study shows BPA is bad, you avoided it. If it doesn't, no skin off your back.
There have been several inconclusive reports that plastic is bad for you. The plastic that has come under the most fire is bisphenol a (BPA), which is common in hard plastics and epoxies. It has been shown to disrupt the hormonal functions of animals. If you are reading this, you can not avoid BPA. It is in everything from bottles to sports equipment to dental fillings. It's the stuff that makes really strong, almost shatter-proof plastic. The only way you can avoid it is you are living off the land, completely isolated.
When plastic leaches into your food or water, you are ingesting chemical substances. Plastic leaches more when it is hot or washed by harsh abrasives - hot liquids, microwaving and dishwashing. Again, it is inconclusive how hazardous plastic is, and the quantities you are ingesting are tiny. At this time, the FDA does not recommend that you stop using products with BPA. Unless you have an infants, young children, or are pregnant - if you are in one of those categories, skip down to "What to do." However, MindfulEats thinks everyone should avoid it.
The bottom line is that we don't know what the actual effect is. Plastic is great because it's light and cheap. But while people are doing their definitive studies, I'm going to avoid plastics in my food and drink as much as possible. I'm eating food in plastic no matter what I do (yogurt, ice cream, dried fruit, etc.), so I'll limit what I can control. My body's got enough work to do working on all the toxins I don't know about, why add more? If the final word is that plastics are fine, I still won't be any worse off for having avoided them. Mindful Eats almost always recommends moderation in everything, but in this and a few other cases (like avoiding fried foods), we're ok with being extreme.
What to do - Replace plastics that touch your food or drink
- Identify all the plastic that you use to store food or beverages. Recycle it. BPA should be identified with a 7 on the bottom of your containers in the triangle - however, not all 7's have BPA. Regardless, recycle all the plastic that holds anything you are going to ingest.
- Figure out what food storage you need, and replace it with glass or stainless steel alternatives. You can recycle used jam and preserve jars, which is smart and thrifty. You probably already have sets of ceramic or stainless mixing bowls, which do the trick. Get a set if you don't have any. If you pack lunch (which you should, since you are becoming a healthy eater), you will need a glass or metal lunch box.
- As for beverages, you may need to replace water bottles with glass, steel, or aluminum. While you're at home, use glass and recycle all those plastic cups you have with the names of sports teams on the sides. See this post for bottle alternatives.
- If you are using plastic baby bottles, replace with PBA-free bottles immediately. Dr. Brown's makes 3.5 oz. glass bottles. My discerning friend Suzi likes Dr. Brown's bPA free polypropolene since she finds glass to be too heavy. She likes the 4 oz. version, but there is also an 8 oz. version. Replace plastic sippy cups with metal.
- Cut down on your canned food use. BPA is in nearly all the linings of canned food. There are a few canned goods that have BPA-free liners, and these will be marked. While I am still going to use canned tomatoes, I am going to be more mindful about fresh alternatives whenever possible.
- A lot of take-out and prepared food comes in plastic containers. Don't put them in the microwave, and after you're finished with them, don't store food items in them.
Things to consider:
- Get a steel water bottle: this widemouth Klean Kanteen is great
- Use glass to pack your lunch in/store leftovers
- For baby: glass bottles or BPA free plastic 4 oz. version or 8 oz. version
- Replace plastic sippy cups with metal
What I ate today: 4 clementines, 1 cup coffee, huge spinach salad + beets + brussell sprouts + barley + pasta + green beans + tofu + beans, 3 squares dark chocolate, 1 cup tea, pumpkin seeds, 1 banana, 1 hard-boiled egg, roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta, 66 oz. water, 1 multivitamin