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Plastics that come into contact with food during manufacturing, packing, packaging, transporting, or holding food are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) leaving NYCWasteLess as "food contact substances."

fda regulations
microwaving plastics

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helpful links to toxic chemicals in plastics


FDA Regulations

Any product that comes into contact with and can leach into food is considered a food additive under the Food Additive Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and must be shown as safe for human consumption to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) leaving NYCWasteLess.

The FDA defines "safe for human consumption" as having "reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that a substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use."

FDA studies the toxological concerns about each food contact substance, and the amount of that substance expected to migrate into food during its intended use. This includes "information on temperature of use, type of food with which the plastic will come into contact, the duration of the contact, and whether the food-contact plastic will be for repeated- or single-use applications."

For regulated plastics to be approved by the FDA, the levels of additives in food must be "well within the margin of safety based on information available to the agency." What is considered safe and unsafe continues to change and the FDA re-evaluates substances if new scientific information raises concerns.

Those concerned with the health and environmental effects of toxic chemicals associated with certain plastics can read further about these issues (see helpful links about toxic chemicals in plastics) and can find alternatives to a variety of plastic products (see waste prevention and alternative products and services).

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Microwaving Plastics illustration: microwave safe symbol

Plastics that are not stable at high temperatures may melt or break down, contaminating any food or beverage it touches.

The general rule concerning the use of plastics in microwave ovens is to look for plastic packaging or containers that are labeled with the words "microwave safe", imprinted with a microwave symbol, or that provide instructions for proper microwave use on the packaging label.

These labels mean that the product has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) leaving NYCWasteLess for use in microwave ovens. Containers and packaging that are not clearly labeled as microwave safe have not been approved.

When using plastic wrap in the microwave, do not let the plastic wrap touch the food to prevent it from melting onto the food when the food becomes extremely hot.

There are many simple alternatives to using plastic containers and plastic wrap in the microwave: for example, use microwave-safe ceramic or glass dishes, paper plates, or paper towels.

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