New plastics are normally labeled as “BPA-free,” but what about some of the plastic drink and food containers that you already have in your home or find at second hand stores and garage sales? How do you know whether they’re free of BPA?
Polycarbonate polymers, which are rigid, clear (or clear-tinted), and unbreakable, contain BPA (bisphenol-a). Water bottles, food storage containers, pitchers, drinking glasses, sippy cups, and baby bottles have all been made using them since the 1960s.
BPA exposure has the potential to harm the brain, prostate glands of fetuses, babies, and children, as well as raise blood pressure. BPA, on the other hand, has been proven to be safe at low levels in foods by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Understand Your Plastics — Are They BPA Free?
Opaque plastics are almost always guaranteed to be BPA-free. So, if you can’t see through it, you’ve already begun the process in identifying BPA-free plastics within your home.
Flip over any plastics that meet the criteria of being hard, transparent (or clear-tinted), and unbreakable to check for a recycling number. Polycarbonate plastics are branded with a number 7, but it’s not the only plastic with a 7 on it, so you’ll need to do a little more digging.
Check to verify if the container is microwave-safe or unbreakable. If it is, it is quite likely that it contains BPA. Remove it from your life. If the container has a label that says “hand wash only,” it’s most likely acrylic and thus safe to preserve. If the container doesn’t have a recycling number and you purchased it before July 2012, assume it contains BPA and dispose of it.
BPA is sometimes used to line metal containers, particularly aluminum water bottles, to improve the flavor of the water. It’s advisable to toss away any container with a plastic lining that isn’t designated as BPA-free. Scratching is very common with these types of linings.
Safety Concerns Regarding BPA
Because of worries about BPA, polycarbonates receive a lot of attention, but it’s important to realize that it’s not the solely plastic that can leach chemicals into the foods you consume. If any of your plastic containers are scratched or broken, toss them out while you’re at it. Leaching is more likely in worn containers.
Other concerns of leaching include:
- Microwaving food in plastic containers;
- Storing acidic foods (such as tomato sauce) in plastic, since the acidity might pull toxins into your diet;
- Placing hot items in containers;
- Scrubbing containers too hard or with scrubbers that could damage them;
- Subjecting containers to high temperatures on a regular basis, for example by washing them in the dishwasher; and
- Utilizing containers over a long period of time.
Japanese Bento Box Manufacturing
The components of plastic bento boxes that come into contact with food from well-known Japanese manufacturers are typically made up of three kinds of plastic: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), PET-A (a PET-ABS hybrid), polypropylene (PP), aPET-A or PP for the bento box outer lid and body, and polyethylene for a flexible inner lid or the primary lids on little side boxes, are frequent techniques used in their design.
Cheaper bento boxes, such as those made by Nakano Co. (manufactured in China), include popular names like Puti Fresh, Lube Sheep, and Clickety-Clack, are offered at Daiso and other ‘100-yen’ stores and are made of PP, which is a safe plastic but not highly recyclable.
Higher-end plastic bento boxes, such as those created by Hakoya, also known as Yellow Studio or Tatsumiya Shikki (mainly made in Japan, with some accessories made in China), mostly use PET or PET-A. (On components of their packaging which are not in direct touch with food, Hakoya also employs different plastics.)
Because the porous quality of PET appears to be the biggest issue to the material, it is not suggested to reuse thinner PET water bottles. PET-A, in particular, appears to be viewed positively as a biodegradable and food-safe plastic. In practice, Yellow Studio and Hakoya bento boxes have been found to be easier to clean and have a superior finish than Lube Sheep products.
Alternatives To Plastic Dishware
Stainless steel is perhaps the most sensible solution to plastic for bento boxes. As a ‘green’ bento box, a stainless steel bento box with a silicone sealing feature around the inner rim of the lid is perfectly acceptable and very practical. Bento or lunch boxes made entirely of stainless steel are also available. Because the lids aren’t leak-proof, don’t pack any damp food in them.
Stainless steel bento boxes are often more expensive than plastic bento boxes, but with good care, they should last much longer. Wood is an extremely attractive, but high-maintenance, counterpart to plastic. Bento boxes were traditionally constructed of wood, whether untreated or lacquered. Wooden bento boxes are lovely, but they must be hand washed and dried immediately afterward with a soft cloth. The Magewappa, crafted of uncoated bent Japanese cedar, is a very well-known type of wooden box.
Bento boxes most certainly come in a wide variety of different styles, materials, and options; however, in order to protect your family, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the bento box you are interested in is BPA-free. The good news though is that being able to spot BPA in plastic items is becoming increasingly easy to do. If you have any questions or concerns regarding BPA and bento boxes, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team at Kangovou for more details and information.