Thanksgiving may be over, but you may not be able to tell by looking in your refrigerator. Even if the turkey, stuffing and cranberries were exceptionally prepared there’s usually enough to last long after the holiday meal is over. And, if you’re anything like me you probably don’t think twice about sticking those leftovers in the microwave and reheating them. If you do—-beware. Food experts say when heating up food in plastic, you might be consuming chemicals you never knew existed.
Studies have shown that in some plastics, a chemical called DEHA can seep into your food when exposed to excessive heat. What’s more, high levels have been shown to cause cancer in some lab animals. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidelines on how to reheat food safely in the microwave. Most people don’t know that the guidelines exist, but they do, and they are worth reading over to help keep you and your family members safe.
The FDA’s first tip: Study the precautions printed on microwaveable packages. For example, many frozen foods say — in very small print — “re-reheating of tray is not recommended.”
Researchers say many plastic plates are “not intended for microwave use” and foam plates, well, they’re even worse. Most styrofoam plates actually have a warning on the package saying the plate “may melt and cause injury.”
Your best bet (and FDA tip No. 2): use glass or microwave-safe plates for cooking or reheating food. If you buy plastic bowls or plates, look for the words “microwave safe” on the label.
As for covering your food (like that plate of leftover turkey) with plastic wrap? The FDA suggested you leave some room between the wrap and your meal. Specifically, they recommend leaving at least 1 or 2 inches between the plastic wrap and the food. Food experts say if you place the plastic wrap directly on the food you’re absorbing the chemicals that come out of it when you heat it in the microwave.
The FDA does note that there is no evidence yet that DEHA causes problems in humans, and they say following the tips they offer should keep you safe. But, if you think about it, how many people know those precautions and guidelines even exist? Did you?