"...I've also recently thought about bringing lunch to work in plastic containers (like the ones you get with carry out). They were so nice, are free, basically leakproof, and can be washed in the dishwasher, but I think that stuff is horrible for you too - especially microwaved..."
I used to bring lunch in plastic containers up until 2008. Many, if not all of my coworkers, replaced their plastic containers with ceramics or glass ones. I think it started out when a bunch of them received spam emails about the risk of getting cancer from eating microwaved foods in plastic containers. There were some paranoia. Many people stopped bringing lunch and bought lunch everyday. As for me, I think the breaking point was when I saw the melted corner of my boss's lunch box after she heated up her curry.
There are health concerns over heating foods in plastic containers because of the possibility of chemicals called plasticizers that can leach out and evaporate into the food. According to TCI America, plasticizers are "materials which are added to improve several properties of polymers such as workability, heat resistance, low-temperature resistance, weathering resistance, insulation properties and oil resistance etc". In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates plastic containers that come in contact with food. Manufacturers are required to test the plastic containers that come in contact with food to meet FDA standards and specifications. Only plastic containers that have passed the FDA stringent testings have the microwave-safe symbol or written instructions indicating the product is microwave-safe.
- Most takeout containers, water bottles, and plastic tubs or jars made to hold margarine, yogurt, whipped topping, and foods such as cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard are not microwave-safe.
- Microwavable takeout dinner trays are formulated for one-time use only and will say so on the package.
- Don’t microwave plastic storage bags or plastic bags from the grocery store.
- Before microwaving food, be sure to vent the container: Leave the lid ajar, or lift the edge of the cover.
- Don’t allow plastic wrap to touch food during microwaving because it may melt. Wax paper, kitchen parchment paper, or white paper towels are alternatives.
- If you’re concerned about plastic wraps or containers in the microwave, transfer food to glass or ceramic containers labeled for microwave oven use.