Food Packaging

An important criterion for selecting food is whether it is organic. A more subtle consideration, though equally consequential, is how food is processed and packaged. Of central concern here is the common use of Bisphenol-A (BPA) and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in food packaging, chemicals that leach from the food packaging into food and then into our bodies. BPA is a synthetic estrogen used to create an epoxy resin for lining canned food and beverages.[1] PFCs are used to create non-stick or stain-resistant surfaces by coating food packaging.[2] Due to their widespread use in many other products as well, BPA and PFCs have been detected in over 90 percent of Americans who have participated in studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.[3] Laboratory studies with animals suggest that exposure to low doses of BPA primarily increases the risk of abnormal fetal and child development; PFCs appear to increase risk of cancer and liver damage.[4]

IMG_0074The best way to minimize environmental harm and avoid potentially dangerous chemicals in food packaging is to buy fresh food or unprocessed food that has been frozen. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables – including organic corn, peas, and berries- have a slightly higher nutritional value than their fresh counterparts that gradually lose nutrients after being harvested.[6] A few food manufacturers offer food in BPA-free packaging in the form of glass bottles or jars and BPA-free cans. Efforts are currently underway to identify manufacturers that use PFC-free packaging for the following greasy products: frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, frozen hash browns, and frozen French fries.

Follow these steps for selecting packaged food:

  • Buy fresh food, frozen fruits and vegetables, or food in plastic-free packaging, such as glass bottles or jars. If you must buy canned foods, be sure they are clearly labeled “BPA-free.”
  • Avoid packaged and fast foods that are greasy, as PFCs are frequently used to make the packaging grease-resistant, including “pizza boxes, fast foods wrappings, microwave popcorn bags, muffin and pastry bags, butter boxes, and hash brown and French fry bags.”[7]
  • If you need to microwave popcorn, you can safely use a brown paper bag.[8]
  • Remove packaging from frozen food before heating; place food on a non-plastic dish.