Food safety: Bags, bottles and beyond

Published 4:08 pm Monday, March 29, 2010

When we think kitchen food safety, the following unsafe practices may not come to mind. They should. Please avoid them.

-Using non-food grade materials: Just because a material looks like a suitable food container that doesn’t make it safe for food. Four common non-food grade items we should avoid using include: brown paper bags, garbage cans, film canisters and plastic trash bags.

Here’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says about this practice: “Do not use brown paper bags from grocery or other stores for cooking. They are not sanitary, may cause a fire, and can emit toxic fumes. Intense heat may cause a bag to ignite, causing a fire in the oven.

It is especially dangerous cooking in galvanized garbage cans as they contain toxic metals that can leach into food.

-Reusing one-time-use items: While some items should not be used with foods, others should be used only once. For example, USDA states: “Plastic wrap, foam meat trays, convenience food dishes, and egg cartons have been approved for a specific use and should be considered one-time-use packaging. Bacteria from foods that these packages once contained may remain on the packaging and thus be able to contaminate foods or even hands if reused.” Other items that were developed with the intention of single use include these four articles:

Single-use plastic water bottles. The plastic water bottles in which water is sold are hard to clean and dry and are not meant for multiple cleanings.

-Disposable plastic utensils, cups and containers. This category includes plastic forks, spoons and knives; plastic cups; and containers from cottage cheese, chip dip, etc.

-These items are not made of materials designed for repeated use or repeated cleaning with hot soap and water.

Some wooden food-related items, such as popsicle sticks and shish kabob skewers, are intended for one-time use. Lids with non-cleanable liners. Glass jars can be cleaned and reused; however you must be careful of reusing the lids. Lids with a non-cleanable liner,such as a waxed cardboard liner, should not be re-used.