Packaging plays an undeniably important role to protect and preserve our food, to keep it fresh, clean and safe.
At the same time, the plastic packaging contains a number of chemicals that can be harmful to our health if they leach into the food we eat.
They are linked to disruptions of the endocrine system, play a role in unlocking allergies and asthma, among others. The chemicals are known to disturb the hormonal balance in our bodies and are especially toxic to young children.
Therefore, though the plastic packaging our food comes in is ubiquitous and many times necessary, we should always consider the adverse effects on our health that such packaging poses.
Here follow the considerations we have about packaging when buying our food.
1. How long has it stayed in the packaging before we buy it
Check when the food was produced and choose the freshest one;
Take the one from the back. Many times different batches from the same manufacturer are sold together. Usually, the ones that are about to expire soon are placed closest to you in most supermarkets.
The expiration date is a double-edged sword.
Logic dictates that the farther away into the future the expiration date is, the fresher the food is. Different producers, however, treat the food in a number of ways to make it last as long as it can.
This means that two apparently identical products from different brands can have different shelf lives. In such case, a food that is about to expire sooner can actually be fresher and with fewer additives/treatments to prolong its shelf life.
2. A note on liquids
As fluid foods are in very close contact with the packaging, they move around and are constantly rubbed against the plastic. This way they can easily wash off and absorb much of the toxicity that their packaging can provide.
We avoid buying liquids in plastic packaging. We prefer buying them in glass bottles or jars, whenever it is possible.
3. Is the food stored at cold or warm temperature
Higher temperatures make plastic more prone to leaching toxins into the food that is in contact with it.
Therefore, for food that is kept cool, there is a smaller risk for toxins to leach from the packaging into it.
For example, the plastic bottle of UHT pasteurised milk can sit on the shelves for a prolonged amount of time at room temperature compared to an always cooled bottle of lightly pasteurised milk with a quite short shelf life.
4. If the food has its “inbuilt” protection to separate it from the plastic wrap
We can “peel” the outer layer of the food before consuming it in many cases (such as with eggs, cucumbers, carrots, bananas).
This way we are removing the part of the food that has absorbed the most toxins from the plastic packaging.
Such foods we are more likely to buy in plastic wraps or store than in their original packaging.
5. To what degree the food is in contact with the packaging
In other words, how much of the surface of the food is actually touching the packaging and with what force.
Compare a bunch of spinach squashed into a small plastic bag to some loose tomatoes in a hard plastic box.
The tomatoes are only lightly touching the box, there are only a few contact points and there is rarely moisture inside. The spinach, on the other hand, is compressed and in close contact with the plastic wrap.
We would avoid buying the spinach but the tomatoes are not that much of an issue in this case.
6. What type of plastic the packaging is made out of
There are safer, sort of OK and outright dangerous types of plastic.
If we have no choice but to buy food in plastic packaging, we always choose the one that is made out of “good” plastic.
Basically, the safest plastics are usually not used to package food, however, PET, PP (polypropylene) and PE (polyethene) are generally OK.
Do not reuse the packaging, though.
Do you have other considerations, regarding the packaging of food?
Share your tips about food packaging in the coments bellow.