Plastic food packaging can result in harmful chemicals leaching into your food before you even buy it.

Getting rid of bad plastic in your kitchen is one thing, but dealing with plastic food packaging is quite another.

At home, you can use alternatives to plastics and change things over in one shot. Not so for your shopping habits.

If you really want to eliminate toxic chemicals from your food, you have to make some tough choices about what you buy at the supermarket, and even where you buy your food.

The bottom line is that many of your favorite foods and drinks are already packaged in toxic containers, before you buy them and before they even get to the store.

Here is some of the bad plastic food packaging you need to watch for.

#1 – Canned foods.

Taking cans from the shelf can be a tough habit to break, but when you buy canned foods you need to be aware that many of those cans are lined with a plastic that includes BPA. That means some BPA has probably already migrated from the can’s lining to the food inside before you even buy it.

The alternative? Buy fresh or frozen foods instead. Fresh fruit, fresh or frozen vegetables, and soups made from scratch.

With canned foods it makes a lot of sense to find alternatives, because the food could have been in the can for months, giving chemicals plenty of time to migrate.

That said, Eden Organic has been using BPA-free liners in its cans for several years now, and offers a wide variety of canned foods.

#2 – Foods packaged in polystyrene.

The first thing to note about polystyrene is that it comes in two forms -- as the familiar, expanded foam used in packaging, insulation and disposable coffee cups, and as a clear or colored plastic used to make disposable cutlery, some yogurt cups and those clear, clamshell containers used for baked goods like cakes and cookies.

In either form, the indentifying recycling number is 6.

When you look closely in your grocery cart, you will probably find a number of items packaged in polystyrene – including meats, cheese, bakery items and fruits and vegetables.

The alternative? Buy your meat and cheese at a serving counter whenever possible, and not from the shelves where everything is already packaged.

Buy your fruit and vegetables in the same way, choosing the loose items instead of the packages.

As for coffee, instead of using and then disposing of a polystyrene cup each time, refill your own travel mug.

That said, in the case of meats, cheeses, baked goods, vegetables and fruits that have been packaged by the store, probably on that same day or the day before, the food has been in contact with the plastic for only a very short time. It’s not like with canned food, where the food may have been canned weeks before you purchase it.

#3 – Bottled water.

The bottles used for pop and singles liter bottles of water are usually made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), and marked with the number 1. While designed for one-time use only, there is no evidence to suggest that any harmful chemicals migrate from this plastic into the pop or water.

However, the larger water cooler bottles used in water dispensing units in offices and homes are often made with plastic #7, polycarbonate. If you use or plan to buy water in these larger containers, check the number. If it is #7, it contains BPA, which is highly toxic

Further reading:

BPA has been found in 96% of canned beverages, like colas, energy drinks and sodas...

Do not cook foods in their cans, or in other packaging...

Bad plastics...

Safe plastics...

Alternatives to plastics...

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