Not all plastic containers can be used for food storage. There are various types of plastics, and you need to know which plastic food containers can be considered toxic. You can easily find out if it’s toxic or not, simply by flipping it over and checking the recycling code number.

If it has the number 3 or 7, you should not store food in it. It should be used in the garage or craft room to store small items such as beads or screws, but definitely not food. If the plastic container has no number indicated on the bottom, it would be best not to use it for food storage either.

The number at the bottom indicates the resin that the plastic container is made of. The codes are:

1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE)
2 High- Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
3 Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
4 Low-density Polyethylene (LDPE)
5 Polypropylene (PP)
6 Poly styrene (PS)
7 Other (including Polycarbonate, Acrylic, Polylactic Acid, and Fiberglass)

As you can see, Number 3 refers to Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC, which is commonly known as vinyl. This plastic is often called toxic plastic, due to the presence of DEHA. According to the EPA, long term exposure to DEHA can lead to decreased body weight and bone mass, damage to the testes or liver, and even cancer. The manufacturing and burning of PVC can also release carcinogenic dioxins into the food chain and atmosphere.

Number 7 is the catch-all code for everything else that doesn’t belong to any of the first six recycling codes. It includes various plastic types, such as polycarbonate. This material is known to contain bisphenol A or BPA, which causes damage to the reproductive system. It mimics the human hormone estrogen, and has been found to sometimes cause mammary gland and prostate cancers.

The plastic industry maintains that BPA is harmless according to various tests that were done with the substance. The FDA says that substances that are used to make plastic could contaminate food, but the levels are safe for consumption.

Make it a point to check the bottom of your plastic container before you use it for food storage. If it has the number 3 or 7, don’t use it for packing your food. The safe choices are numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Polycarbonate plastics are clear and hard. Some of the items that are made from this type of plastic include baby bottles, bowls, tableware, and food storage containers. Avoid using these items.