Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don’t reuse food and water containers

Do not reuse plastic food and water containers. This is the advice given by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

He said this was because the quality of such products was “questionable” and Malaysians were at risk of being exposed to chemicals which might seep into the food or liquid.

“Takeaway plastic food containers used in eating outlets are disposable items and designed for single use only.

They are not intended for repeated storage of food,” he said in an interview with The Star.

Instead, Dr Chua said that people should only use reusable plastic food containers such as cups, plates, bowls, bottles and boxes used in household kitchens for repeated storage of food because these containers have attributes such as sturdiness and thermal stability.

He emphasised that takeaway food containers which were labelled “microwave safe” for reheating should not be reused.

As for mineral water plastic bottles, Dr Chua said it was not advisable to keep on reusing them.

“It is not easy to clean. You can never reach the inside and in the hot Malaysian weather, the stability is questionable,” he said.

His comments were based on a recently concluded study commissioned by the ministry to the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, carried out by Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohamad.

The study showed that in 45 of the 47 containers examined, at least one chemical was detected. However, the level of the leachate detected was low.

The scope of the study was to analyse chemicals in plastic polystyrene food containers.

The chemicals analysed were styrene monomer, bisphenol A (BPA), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyle phthalate (BBP), di- 2-ethylexyl adipate (DEHA) and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).

The samples included different types of food and water containers and were extracted at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Dr Chua said the level of chemicals was low “but you cannot rule out the small amounts excreted which will accumulate in the body.”

He cited the potential that BBP had in affecting a person’s endocrine function such as the thyroid gland and pancreas. Dr Chua also said it was safe to freeze meat directly in its original commercial plastic wrapping.

For long storage, rewrap or over-wrap the meat tightly with moisture-proof freezer bags to maintain the quality and texture of the meat, he said.