Styrofoam is a popular material used for packing food. It is used in fast food joints as well as restaurants. But, can you microwave this popular material to reheat food?
Styrofoam has fast become a packing material for foods. It contains a huge proportion of air; as high as 90 – 95%. Its airy composition makes it extremely light and easy to carry. Styrofoam is also known for its capabilities to insulate. This property makes it a preferred option to store hot as well as cold foods. Its popularity stems from being able to maintain the shape of foods as well as enhance longevity of foods stored in it.
But, is it safe to microwave Styrofoam? The answer is not a concrete yes or no. Why? It depends on the type of foam. Let us get the facts first. There are two types of Styrofoam, namely the traditional type and a newer version.
Traditional type of Styrofoam
The traditional type of Styrofoam is produced from polystyrene, which is made of benzene, styrene and other substances. Inputs used in this type are likely to impair your reproductive system and may also turn carcinogenic. When you expose containers made from this type of foam, it can make benzene and styrene to mix with foods. At room temperature, the containers are safe for packing and storing food. The problem arises only when you microwave the traditional type of Styrofoam. The container may melt or break when it is microwaved. If you do not see such visible damages to the container, you may sense a strong smell of plastic some times. This smell indicates that the container is not microwave-friendly and some of its chemicals may have mixed with the food inside. Clinical studies note that if you eat foods containing plastic, you may experience serious health problems. Regular intake of foods with plastic content may trigger serious damages to your organs.
It is for these reasons Styrofoam is regarded as unsafe for use in microwaves.
Newer version of Styrofoam
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts elaborate tests before it certifies a material as safe. Styrofoam’s newer version – for the most part – is certified as safe for reheating in microwaves. If the container is made of foam that has passed FDA’s scrutiny, it is widely considered safe for both storage and reheating. How to tell if your container is truly safe? It is fairly simple. All you need to do is look at the bottom or the walls of the container. Needful instructions and warnings are listed to guide you about its usage, safety, etc.
How safe are some materials used for packing and storing foods?
Plates made of Styrofoam are in general considered as unsafe for use in your microwave. Make sure that you are not using such plates to reheat food. However, plates made of paper are generally microwaveable. But if you have foods that flow or excessively oily and greasy, usage of paper plates may pose limitations. In such instances, opt for a microwave-friendly plate for reheating.
Coffee cups are made for temporary use and for storing your drink for a short span of time. The reason is, your coffee already comes out hot. Hence, these cups are not made for reuse or reheating purposes. So, if you wish to reheat your coffee, transfer the drink to another microwavable mug and start reheating.
In case of take-outs, not all boxes are microwave-safe. It is recommended to transfer take-outs into a microwave-safe container while reheating such foods.
Cup of Noodles – on the other hand – is made to be used in microwaves. So, it is very likely that such containers are microwave-friendly. In any case, look out for instructions printed or stuck on the container before using it inside your microwave. In general, you are not advised to transfer the contents from the cup to another container.
In sum, when you use a container made of Styrofoam for reheating, always look for instructions listed on it. If you do not find that your container is safe for microwave use, you are advised to discard it. Also, if you find the container melting or breaking while you microwave it, discard it without hesitation. Ensure to discard the reheated food inside the damaged container as well. It is widely regarded as a safe option to use glass or ceramic containers while microwaving your foods. The benefit with containers made of ceramics or glass is they can withstand higher temperatures inside your microwave. If glass or ceramic containers are not available, consider using paper plates.
So, the next time you have a take-out in a box that has no warnings or instructions printed on it, transfer the food to a microwave-safe container to reheat your food.