View Full Version : Plastic or glass for food storage?

11-05-2016, 12:28 PM
This week there were two plastic vs glass incidents that came up:
1. Grandma sent me home with chicken salad, in a glass casserole dish, and commented that shes not using plastic anymore because its not safe for food.
2. Mother of the 11yo birthday party boy asked which was safer for kids drink container - glass container made in china, or bpa free plastic made in usa.

The moms at our charter tend to be a bit more on the crunchy side, so I can understand the question. Grandma thinks nothing of making instant Jell-O, and has a plethora of junk food items full of hfcs, artificial colors, and preservatives - which she assures me contributed to her boys being super hyper as kids. And chicken salad - not exactly gonna go in the microwave.

Is the frenzy against plastic all hype? Am I really not supposed to put it in the dishwasher? Seriously, the only things I hand wash are my cast iron and my silicone baking mat.
Even CNN is in on the anti-plastic bandwagon:
"BPA-free" plastic alternatives may not be safe - CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/01/health/bpa-free-alternatives-may-not-be-safe/)

I love my plastic cups for my boys. And my leftover containers. And I dont like being an alarmist, or jumping on the latest outrage of the day bandwagon.

Am I poisoning my family?

What do other SHSers do?

11-05-2016, 02:19 PM
I selected the "tupperware" option, though I use the glad bowls with the interlocking lids. They are sturdy enough to use long term but cheap enough to toss when they get a bit old or something is just too gross to scrape out. I don't like to microwave in them though. They are for storage and then reheating usually gets done in a regular bowl. But that's just my preference to eat out of a real bowl. We have a bunch of plastic bottles and cups. I haven't really paid attention to any of the anti-plastic hype. I don't know whether that is for better or worse.

11-05-2016, 02:32 PM
I store in glass containers first and foremost, but if I run out of those or if I'm sending food to someone else I'll use plastic containers I've saved from food products I've bought. I do store my flours, grains, sugars, etc in plastic containers, but glass containers that are big enough for my purposes usually weight more than I can get down safely. I don't microwave plastic. I've read quite a bit about the chemicals in plastic and while BPA free is great....there are other chemicals that are just as bad that are still in our commonly used plastics. I'm not anti plastic, but I also recognize that glass and metal can be better choices for some purposes. I'll hand my youngest a plastic sippy cup (re play which is made from recycled plastic milk jugs), but my older two use hydroflasks and metal cups. I also feel that glass and metal gets cleaner and last a lot longer....and that saves money in the end. ha ha.

11-05-2016, 03:27 PM
I'm *not* always good about this myself... but my understanding is that the only really solid science is that the plastic isn't great with temperature changes. Thus, store away, cover things in plastic wrap, etc, but don't heat it up with the food. Always transfer to a regular plate or bowl.

Mostly, I feel like that's easy to follow. I use plastic for leftovers a good bit, but I don't heat in the plastic. The hardest thing for me is freezing soups and so forth. Like, if you can't stick them in cheapie tupperware, it's a PITA to freeze in plastic bags and then remove the bags and then nuke them in a bowl. Like, a huge PITA. And you have to be sure whatever it is has cooled enough to be safe going into the bag as well because of the heat.

11-05-2016, 06:03 PM
I am not a fan of plastic. I dont even like drinking from the water bottles from the gas station. I bought one way back when , and I happened to look into the bottle as I was getting ready to take a drink and saw a filmy rainbow floating on the surface. I realized I had been ingesting oil! The nasty oil that is made to use the bottle is the same oil I use for my car! Nasty! So, I take a water with me from home. It may be a plastic or glass cup, but I dont see that filmy rainbow floating in my glass or cup from home.
When storing food, I use glass. When food is stored in plastic, the acid from the food releases the oils from the plastic and then you ingest them. Yuck. And everyone wonders why cancer rates are up across the globe! Too many toxins being ingested from multiple sources. So hard to get away from too!
Even when I make juice, it goes straight into a glass container. Same for my raw almond milk.
Ive stopped using my plastic cooking utensils as well.
Call me paranoid, but I feel better knowing I am not putting all of that crap into my body. Ive got enough health problems and dont want any additional ones.

11-05-2016, 07:53 PM
I use both. I store leftovers or freeze meals in plastic, but I will transfer them to a cooking container to heat up. I even rarely use the microwave for mass heating. I generally put soups and stews in a pot to heat up over the stove when I am at home.

I have glass containers with plastic lids too, that I use frequently. I use them mostly for items that I will know I want to heat on site and don't want to bring a second container for cooking. (When I go to work I will put leftovers in the glass, so I can microwave to cook.)

11-06-2016, 01:57 AM
I use glass. Not because it's super healthy, but because when I started to replace my storage containers, Anchor glass containers were on sale at Big Lots, and they stacked SO much better than my random plastic did. Now I use glass 90% of the time because I don't have to worry about what flavors might leech into the plastic and contaminate my next flavors. Plus, I like the ease of use. From freezer, to fridge, to microwave, to eat out of, into dishwasher. I HATE doing dishes so anything that cuts down on the number of dishes I have to wash is a good thing in my life.

That said, I keep plastic around for when I sent leftovers to my sis. Anything that went to her place I was NEVER getting back. Mom and I had a method, she had red lid pyrex, I had blue lid anchor. Things never got mixed up. :-)

Do I do it for health? Not really. I do it because spaghetti sauce does not stain glass. And containers with garlic heavy foods one day, can be used (after washing) the next for chocolate without worrying about garlicky chocolate. (which is blech!)

11-06-2016, 11:30 AM
To help with the leach of flavors in the plastic, I do use baking soda and warm water. Let it soak and the scent is gone.

I do wonder and sometimes have a mini panic about the plastic issues, but then I think we are using plastic for everything. I am handling plastic everyday. Is it leaching through my skin.

I think to when I was younger and leaded-crystal was a thing. Even after what we knew, why were we still using it for high-end products like drinking glasses? Ugh.

11-06-2016, 11:48 AM
I use both, but is glass really safer? Glass made in China, especially? I worked for a while for a Chinese import company - Ive seen the ethic first-hand, dont need to read news articles about toothpaste, baby food, or dogfood to know that product quality and integrity isnt a priority.

Are the glazes in chinese ceramics safe? Do american companies who have their products made there actually test the glazed products for known carcinogens and lead?
What sorts of things could they be putting in "glass"?

How are manufacturing methods so much cheaper there that its worthwhile to have them made halfway around the world and shipped to us? What corners are being cut?

I would feel much more confident in USA-made BPA-free labeled plastics than the cheap stuff of theoretically inert materials made overseas.

11-06-2016, 12:29 PM
Agreed, AM! On all points :) I'd rather have US made plastic over Chinese mystery-glass any day!

I have and use multiple size and shape Ball canning jars for food storage in the pantry and in the fridge. All USA made. However I do reuse (after a good wash) sour cream containers and such.

I am guilty of adoring those Weck canning jars from Germany..... I have a few, but they are so expensive. SUPER Pretty though!!!

11-06-2016, 02:13 PM
If I am buying new containers I get glass or stainless steel, but I do reuse the odd container from something we buy that comes in plastic packaging but I try not to use plastic for food. For us its a choice based on the impact of plastics manufacturing on the environment, and the fact that glass and stainless steel and easily recyclable, often in your local area, whereas plastic is not. For example, glass recycled in our city is all recycled in New Zealand, and our city has a very successful recycling program for glass where almost 100% of it is recycled. The plastic for recycling is either stockpiled because it has no recycling option yet (depending on what type it is) or is shipped overseas.

In general, I try to limit buying of anything from China, not because I don't trust it, but because I don't think its fair for the West to have such a large volume of its manufacturing and recycling there because its cheaper or environmental regulations are not as strict. It has led to huge pollution issues, which I edit a lot of papers about.

Plastics in general I prefer not to use for any food stuff if possible. In the overall history of things, all those chemicals are relatively new. They really have no idea of potential impacts either on human health or the environment. So some plastics have taken out BPA, but what they put in to perform its function instead?

That's my take as someone with a PhD in Chemistry, who is not afraid of chemicals, and does not jump on any sort of bandwagons. I would rather not be part of some long term experiment as to what plastics are and are not safe. However, on the flip side, if you can't afford to purchase glass/stainless steel from reliable manufacturer, then in comparison to all the other pollution risks in the world its probably a small one. Like organic vs. conventionally grown food. If you can afford organic great, if you can't don't stress, its better to have good nutrition than limit your purchasing because it is not organic. Again, our choices there are mainly because of the effects of conventional farming techniques on the environment rather than the effects of contaminants in the food item on human health.

Regarding contaminants in glass. I imagine you can get some in recycled glass, I am not sure about virgin glass, will have to go and look.

I would not limit worries about counterfeiting (of anything) to China, there are many other people in many other countries that would be in on that game too – to make something for cheaper so they can get a higher profit. The EU general has the strictest standards for everything when it comes to manufacturing and the environment, if you are wanting a place to buy stuff from that you could trust. Most other countries like the US do have good standards, but for some chemicals it a bit pick and mix as to what levels things are controlled to or if they are checked.

11-06-2016, 02:17 PM
..and I am not 'anti plastic' as such. Its a wonderful invention, I would just rather 'save it' (e.g. the use of petrochemicals, the manufacturing and recycling issues) for the uses where its of huge benefit (e.g. medical uses and so forth).

11-06-2016, 02:28 PM
Do american companies who have their products made there actually test the glazed products for known carcinogens and lead?
What sorts of things could they be putting in "glass"?

How are manufacturing methods so much cheaper there that its worthwhile to have them made halfway around the world and shipped to us? What corners are being cut?

Cost cutting is more on things like stuff for workers (pay, paid leave etc.). Kind of similar to how everything made in the US is way cheaper than things in NZ because we have more workers rights stuff (more paid leave, public health cover for workplace accidents etc.). China is another step down the scale. Also a big one would be the source of energy they are using and a cost comparison of that. Manufacturing is very energy intensive. What environmental regulations are required, such as how much to they need to take contaminants out of their waste streams before it can be discharged to the air, water, etc. Are they located closer to the bulk raw materials that are used to reduce transportation at that end. Lots of things that make it cheaper rather than the actual manufacturing method.

From my editing though, a huge cost cut is the environmental regulations. It is expensive for a company to meet environmental regulations, and I personally do not like to buy from companies that are that low in their ethics that they think its ok to up their profit by outsourcing their manufacturing pollution to a country that won't regulate it as well.

11-06-2016, 02:44 PM
Final thought, with regarding to testing of products for contaminants, I would think that it would be based on the country you are importing the product to and selling it in. For example, if its made in China and for sale in China, China standards would apply, but if its made in China and for sale in the USA, then USA standards would apply. However, I would have to check that as I am not 100% sure on it. I am also not sure what the rules are for how frequently items are tested to see they are meeting standards.

11-06-2016, 03:58 PM
From my experience working for the chinese bamboo flooring company (supposed to be "green" hah!)... it was relied upon the manufacturer to do the testing. When a dispute with a Lowes customer led to a 3rd party doing the testing, the results were doctored before being forwarded to Lowes (that was when I quit). High formaldyhyde offgassing? Hell yes. Urethane content in the planks? Remarkably high for a product claiming to be urethane free.
My boss told me the results werent right, that unless you pay bribes to the testing companies that they will lie about what is in the products.
And yeah, they have no respect for their labor, either. "Awww GAP demanding that every person has 18 square feet of personal space, that is so ridiculous, people sleep in shifts at the factory they dont need as much space as all that." (The company also knocked off sunglasses and imported them here and sold them at GAP and Old Navy.) The flooring one was the sales manager laughing at a meeting we had with some nice Portland OR flooring company meeting (I went along to be 'assistant'). She said "We call them Froggies because when the kids come out of the factory they are all green[with the backing dust]". And they didnt like working with the lights on, there is only so much electricity it gets rationed so they keep the machines going.
You ever see a room full of white men with their jaws hanging open?

Im sure not all companies are as bad as the one I worked for, those few months.
But I wont put anything past them, if they think they can get away with it.

And yah, Apple has iphones and ipads made in China because the byproducts are too toxic to make in the civilized world.

I would trust that in NZ, or in USA, or in EU, food storage products made of plastic, glass, ceramic, or steel wouldnt be knowningly produced with "bad stuff" in them. Just on principle.
But in China, it seems its only bad if you get caught. Then the shame is in being caught, not from doing wrong in the first place.


11-06-2016, 08:13 PM
Anchor and Pyrex are both still made in the US. IT's of a weaker glass than what is made in Europe (lime soda glass as opposed to borosilicate), but I've dropped it on laminate, on tile, put it in the oven, dishwasher, microwave, freezer, fridge and only broken 1. I lose lids faster than I lose the glass. My husband works in manufacturing in the US, so I know some of the tests that stuff made in the US must go through. SO I do try to buy Made In The US (not the same as Made in America as "America" includes Mexico and Canada which is sneaky)

11-06-2016, 09:37 PM
You know I grab whatever is handy. My mom basically fed me microwave dinners all growing up. I haven't grown gills or a tail that I'm aware of. Plastic it up for us! We do have glass, too, though - it's actually my preference because it doesn't stain or warp, and we rarely have to replace it.

So I'd probably choose either the plastic or the Chinese glass. I don't care much when I'm thirsty/hungry/ever.

11-06-2016, 09:43 PM
"Made In The US (not the same as Made in America as "America" includes Mexico and Canada which is sneaky)"

REALLY??? I didn't know that!! :(

11-07-2016, 02:19 PM
I have to say that when it comes to storage. MASON Jars (actually Ball). The various sizes allows for easy transfer of storage items as they are used to a smaller size jar. The open glass allows me to find things fast by sight, and easy lids lets me peek in to see what bacteria is currently growing!

Ball came out with a large wide mouth Gallon and Half gallon (which cant be used for canning) but they work perfect for opening cereal boxes, dumping in, and away with the box.

Lots of jars, but the savings from storing foods and beverages in jars has saved thousands in waste over the years.

Now one might ask about Tupperware. Anyone that has grown up around Tupperware knows the horror stories. Everyone has a Grandmother that went to the sacred Coveted Tupperware parties of the 50's. She has the original collectors series. Now some of us have seen one of grandma's missing Tupperware lids go home in the wrappings, and lived to tell the tale.

How many of us called first thing to let grandma know we had by accident taken the lid with the gifts? Only to hear grandma telling us over the phone not to worry about bringing it back right away, but wait until the next trip....tick...tock..tick....tock....Starring up at the ceiling from bed knowing that grandma's Tupperware lid is in the kitchen....Anything could happen during the night......Grab the keys, travel the winter roads back to grandmas and deliver the lid at all costs. Making sure that the lid is delivered to grandmas paws. Maybe even record the return conversation using your cell phone audio and sharing with the other members of the family to safe guard from being held accountable for a lid never returned.......OH yes, we that have lived with Tupperware Grandmothers and mothers know the tales.

I have never seen anyone go ape shit over a canning band and lid.....That is why Mason Jars are the best options!

11-08-2016, 03:28 PM
Anchor and Pyrex are both still made in the US. IT's of a weaker glass than what is made in Europe (lime soda glass as opposed to borosilicate), but I've dropped it on laminate, on tile, put it in the oven, dishwasher, microwave, freezer, fridge and only broken 1. I lose lids faster than I lose the glass. My husband works in manufacturing in the US, so I know some of the tests that stuff made in the US must go through. SO I do try to buy Made In The US (not the same as Made in America as "America" includes Mexico and Canada which is sneaky)

Yep. It's not hard IMO to find USA glass containers. I often see them on sale and even bought a bunch over 50% off clearance once making it cheaper than plastic containers.

If I didn't have to store my flours and grains above my head I probably would opt for glass storage for them, but I'm a klutz. ha ha.

11-10-2016, 04:17 PM
We just replaced everything with Weck glass containers. As freaking expensive as they are in the U.S., it's worse in Canada. But we bit the bullet. They are very nice. The uniform tops are a plus because the components are stackable and interchangeable.

12-02-2016, 02:42 PM
I went through the whole avoiding plastic thing, then mellowed. Seriously, if the supermarket chicken comes packaged in plastic wrap (which transports plasticizer much more readily than rigid plastics) what is the point in transferring it to a glass container, once it is home?

That said, I won't microwave anything in plastic, nor would I ever dream of using those plastic "oven bags" that you're supposed to actually bake food in, right in a plastic bag.

But I do occasionally open a can of tomato paste without qualms about BPA. I was helped on this journey of reality- checking by the knowledge that some people who went way out of their way to eat only organic and were super-fastidious about all exposures (read: yuppies without lots of kids or a budget to worry about!) still had wicked polluted blood like the rest of us, when tested.

Support local and organic? Sure, when I can afford it. But eschew anything from a can ever? No. It appears there is no rock to hide under when it comes to global ubiquity of pollutants: we're all in this together.

12-02-2016, 05:55 PM
Is it untrendy to use cans of tomato paste now, too?