Which Types of Plastic Food Storage are Toxic?

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.

By | 2015-01-04T10:18:25-08:00 July 18th, 2011|Food & Cooking, Nontoxic|

About the Author:

Grace is a writer for Living Clean, LLC.


  1. S.john@ayva May 21, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Plastic food storage is less expensive, but it may more expensive for our health. We need to reduce the use of plastic food storage to save our health.

  2. Nate March 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Great information about the different types of plastic and how the toxicity can leach from the different kinds of plastic. I hear that the #2 recycling id is the best one to store food in.

  3. Bob@Kent Storage Units January 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Wow! I never knew there was “toxic” plastic. Hopefully they don’t make anything in a 3 or 7 that resembles a food container. Isn’t PVC plastic used for pipes? Can you use it for water or is it toxic?

    • Cheryl January 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      @Bob: According to Hulda Clarke, Phd, who did extensive research on toxins, metal pipes are more toxin than plastic. The iron from old galvanized plumbing pipe shows up as rust in your toilet bowl, and the copper from slightly more modern plumbing often shows up as green stains, especially if you have relatively acid water, such as that found in areas that have high acid soil (not the desert).

  4. Worli November 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Plastic food storage keeps your food fresh. It maintains room temperature of both hot and cold food. So you don’t worry about spending money at the grocery store and purchasing ingredients that you think will spoil because they aren’t stored properly.

  5. Ben@Structural Plastics November 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Wow, my mom always yelled at me for not using a “microwave safe plate”.
    I didn’t realize that some of them were actually toxic…eekkk

  6. james October 20, 2011 at 1:19 am

    It’s great that you have published this.. .I think many more sites need to make people aware of dangerous plastic materials, especially when they get hot.

    In some countries i’ve seen many salesman selling hot liquid food like curry inside plastic bags? I wonder if those plastic bags are actually safe, but they should be i guess..

  7. Ben September 8, 2011 at 12:46 am

    My wife and I enjoyed your article very much, thanks for sharing!

  8. Kristen August 28, 2011 at 5:34 am

    It amazes me that companies still make storage containers with these unhealthy materials. Do you know if it’s OK to reheat food in the microwave in a #1 or #2 plastic container? Any health risks? Thanks!

    • Cheryl September 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      @Kristen: Microwaves produce their own particular problems. I don’t even own one anymore, because of the changes made to food by the microwave process. One incident to illustrate this is that of a doctor I know who practices applied kinesiology and recommended that a patient eat some whole grain cereal for breakfast each day. During the next visit, the doctor was concerned to see that the results of her muscle testing did not show any improvement. If anything, there was a worsening of the condition. She asked about the patient’s diet and found out that the whole grain cereal had been prepared in the microwave!

  9. Mike@Home Adventure August 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Like the previous comment said, I never even thought to consider that some containers might be dangerous to use for food storage. I’m surprised they don’t come with warning labels yet. I’m pretty sure they will be on the way.

  10. Duy Nguyen@How to Study Anatomy And Physiology Effectively August 11, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Wow! This information amazed me really! Actually I haven’t paid much attention on that little icon on those plastic containers. But after reading this I think I should go and check all of them. Hope they’re all type 1 and 2! Thanks a lot for putting this post up.

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