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10 Types of Toxic Food Packaging

Don’t let these spoil your healthy diet


A nourishing diet means more than simply eating fresh, unprocessed foods. Sometimes the packaging that your food comes in is as important as the food itself. Although packaging is a necessary feature for transporting and keeping food fresh, it can be a major source of the toxins you ingest with each meal. Watch out for these types of toxic food packaging.


Plastic water bottles

Water is the most cleansing part of your diet, but not when you drink from a disposable plastic bottle. A global study discovered that 93 percent of the world’s 11 leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with up to 10,000 particles of microplastics per liter. To lower your exposure to microplastics, and their risk to your overall health, use a stainless steel bottle for drinking water on the go.


Metal cans

Canned foodDiCanned foodet

Canned fish and veggies are convenient, but the clear lining in metal food cans is typically made with bisphenol A (BPA). BPA builds up in our tissues and is toxic for the brain, nervous system, and reproductive health. Surveys show that 73 percent of canned foods contain BPA, with highest levels found in green beans and corn. To lower your exposure, choose fresh and frozen foods over canned, or buy cans labeled “BPA-free”.


Polystyrene takeout boxes

Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) has a bad environmental rep—but did you know that it also pollutes your body? People who eat takeout food regularly have much higher intakes of polystyrene microplastics.  And the hotter or fattier food is, the more styrene it’ll absorb. As both an irritant and possible carcinogen, it’s worth asking your takeout hotspots to swap their polystyrene containers for cleaner paper-based alternatives.


Newspaper wrapping

The traditional roadside eatery experience of newspaper-wrapped fries and sandwiches is fun, but it’s hazardous to your health. Newspaper ink is loaded with bioactive chemicals, including lead and hydrocarbons that are cancer causing and toxic to your kidneys, disruptive to hormones, and more. What’s worse is that the food typically wrapped in newspaper is greasy, which make it easier for organic pollutants to transfer into your food.


PFSA containers

Paper packaging can be eco-friendly, but when it’s coated with non-stick per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) it become unhealthy. These synthetic chemicals build up in the body and are linked with thyroid, fertility, and immune system toxicity.  Microwave popcorn bags are a top PFSA culprit, and snacking from them daily has been shown to boost PFSA levels by 63 percent over one year. For a healthier popcorn fix, choose air popped.


Microwavable plastics

When it comes to plastic food containers, “microwave safe” labeling can be a false sense of security. The phthalates used to make some plastics have been found to migrate into food when it’s heated in the microwave. Exposure to phthalates is linked with many health problems, including infertility, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and oxidative stress. To avoid exposure, heat your leftovers in a ceramic or glass container.


Single-use plastics

Many unsuspecting consumers reuse plastic food packaging, despite its design for single-use. This is especially risky with #3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) food containers. PVC has one of the highest toxicity levels of plastic packaging and is guilty of leaking hormone disrupting di-n-butyl phthalate into food.   Studies show that the more a PVC container is reused, the more phthalates the food in it picks up.  Cleaner alternatives include “phthalate-free” or glass containers.


Express bags

Ready-to-eat produce can be a big time saver when in a hurry. Unfortunately, the plastic bags used to package ready-to-eat lettuce, carrots, and other vegetables have been shown to contaminate them with toxic phthalates.  Thankfully, switching to a diet of fresh, organic foods without plastic packaging has been show to lower people’s exposure to phthalates, as well as bisphenol A (BPA), by more than half within a few days.


Beverage cans

A cold can of sparkling water is refreshing, but you’re better off quenching your thirst with tap water. The inside lining of beverage cans is coated with a resin of bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked with metabolic diseases and neurodevelopment and reproductive problems. One study found that people who drank canned beverages had 1,600 percent higher BPA levels than those who drank glass bottled beverages.


Black plastic packaging

Recycled plastic is chemically complex, making it easy for unknown chemicals to hide inside its matrix. Studies have shown that the black recycled plastic used to make thermos lids, disposable black cutlery, coffee stirrers, and other food packaging contains toxic flame retardants and heavy metal residues from recycled electronic waste.  Minimize your exposure to plastic packaging hazards by prioritizing home-cooked meals and fresh, unpackaged ingredients.



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