Healthy in the kitchen, are plastic wraps for storing food safe?
How to choose and use plastic wraps safely.
How many times have we done it, wrapping a freshly prepared food, a piece of cake or cheese with plastic wraps, or cling films. The aim is to prevent food from coming into contact with air, mold or bacteria, to store it better, longer and to avoid unpleasant surprises. In fact, the protection of food, especially when the food is fresh, has helped prevent salmonella contamination, one of the most common food poisoning (Luz, Environ Health Perspect, 2012). But there is a problem, is plastic wrap safe? In fact, for sure you have read on the packaging of the plastic film roll that it should not come into contact with fatty substances, and therefore, what happens if we wrap some cheese in it? Let's try to understand it.
Plastic wrap, materials and contraindications
Almost all plastic wraps are made of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. This is because it is the most performing material, it adheres well to food and is flexible. However, substances such as phthalates are added to make PVC so elastic. Phthalates are considered endocrine disruptors, namely they influence the hormonal production in our body, and, moreover, prolonged exposure to these substances is considered a possible cause of development of some tumors (Rastkari et al, Food Technol Biotechnol, 2017 - Moreira et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2013). The problem is that phthalates are soluble in fats and in alcohol and therefore there is the possibility that they can infiltrate fatty foods like butter, cheese, cakes, cold cuts but also meat (Yang et al, Food Addit Contam Part B Surveill. , 2019). From here then they enter our organism with the long-term consequences we have seen. Therefore, if you want to use PVC wraps, do not use them for foods rich in fat or, alternatively, put the food in a container, such as a glass bowl, and then wrap the aperture of the bowl with the plastic foil by avoiding any contact with the food. The other material with which the transparent wrap is produced is PE, or polyethylene. Polyethylene does not have the contraindications of PVC films, it is indeed considered safer for all types of food, but it has a disadvantage, which can however be accepted, that it does not adhere well to food and it is not so flexible. Unfortunately, the material with which the plastic wrap is produced is not always indicated, but some companies report it on a voluntary basis. For the same reason, the warning that the film should not come into contact with fatty foods is not always indicated on the label. Therefore, a good choice is, in any case, to never put plastic wraps in contact with fat food or use, in this case, one of the alternatives that we propose below.
Alternatives to plastic wraps
Perfect for cheese or meat is paper, which should always indicate on the packaging that it is made for wrapping food. Do not use newspaper or recycled paper as it is rich in lead used for ink (Preventing tumors by eating with taste, Villarini). Glass containers are always considered safe. Aluminum, while protecting from light and resisting well both at high and low temperatures, should not be used with acid or salty foods, such as tomato sauce or marinated foods as it may penetrate the food and become toxic.