When in the market for storage containers, especially for storing away food, it is crucial to understand a good buy from bad. What matters the most is size, color, cost, utility, grade of plastic or glass and temperature resistance to kitchen gadgets. Most importantly the microwave! Most of us opt for plastic storage containers or boxes mainly because of the ‘cost’ factor. Not all plastic boxes are suitable to store food. It is essential to look for ‘food grade’ storage containers which do not contain recycled plastic or dyes as is not deemed fit for consumption, when food is stored in such boxes.
Before you store away your favorite leftovers or pack lunch for yourself, stop and think of the type of food you want to be putting away in these storage containers. When food contains fats, acids or alcohol they may react with the plastic polymer (of which the storage box is made of) and degrade food quality by reacting with the food particles. Remember when you thought that it was a clever idea to stash away your fabric paints in your little food storage containers to keep them from spilling over? When you store items which are not edible, into food grade storage containers such as detergents, chemicals or paints you render the boxes unfit for food storage.
There are many types of plastic in use but every type of plastic cannot be used for storing food. Plastics are assigned codes which then categorize them for several different uses. These can be duly found at the top of bottom of every container. Some commonly found codes are PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) with code 1 centered by a recycling symbol, HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) with code 2, Vinyl with a code 3 and so on and so forth until code 7. Out of these HDPE, code 2 works best for storing food as long as they are certified ‘food grade’.
There are two major problems to watch out for while using plastic storage containers. Firstly, the transfer of oxygen through the plastic walls of the container and secondly infestation of pests and insects can become a problem over a period of time. But don’t worry as there are simple home remedies that will solve these problems easily. Using light metal food wraps will act as a separator to both light and insects. Another common food problem is related to food burn. In this process when food is not stored dried, or when wet food is stored, water droplets are formed on the food. This decontaminates the food, devaluing the flavor and look of the food. There is a white dew like formation. This is called food burn.
Sometimes food storage boxes that are microwaveable may be used for heating but must not be used for prolonged periods as they may turn toxic.
To sum it up, it’s not a bad idea to switch to metal boxes instead of plastic ones in the long run. After using plastic storage containers for a long time you could use them to store household objects, recycling them. Use plastic storage containers judiciously and always think of the environment.