There was a time when us Brits accepted our takeaway food wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper. Legions of (mostly) men would pop into their favourite Fish and Chip shop on their way home from the pub. Soon they’d be struggling to put the key in the door and hoping the smell of chips would dampen their wives fury. How times have changed (I think). What has changed is our takeaway containers. We decedents of the Chippy Generation have higher standards. We expect our Kormas and Kebabs to be served in clean and sturdy plastic dishes. We won’t tolerate leakages or food that’s cold by the time we get it home. Our containers must be all things to all women and men. But some of us have doubts. We wonder if this packaging is safe? We trust the big (mostly American) brands but question the small takeaway down the road. We ask – are these containers safe to use?
What About Our World?
Modern containers need to be more than something that hold’s food better than our cupped hands. We want them to be microwave-safe so we can reheat last night’s curry. We expect them to be recyclable, even though most of us aren’t sure what that really means. For the avoidance of doubt, let me explain. Takeaway containers are almost always made from polypropylene. Check one out for the letters PP (usually on the bottom). It’s the international symbol for this type of plastic. One of the great things about polypropylene is that it’s easily recycled. It can be turned into things you couldn’t imagine; shipping pallets, shovels, watering cans. The list goes on. To answer the question – is this plastic safe for our world – the answer is yes. It won’t harm the environment if clever people recycle it after use. All they have to do is check their council’s website for local recycling instructions. Everyone wins. The customer gets great (and hot) food while later on someone else gets a new shovel. It’s the circle of life!
Is it Safe to Eat?
Another common question is about food safety. Do plastic containers transfer chemicals into our meals? The simple answer is a big fat No. Polypropylene is used to make these containers because it doesn’t leach chemicals into food. Not only that, but it can be heated to high temperatures and still won’t seep anything unhealthy into its contents. It’s also non-volatile so it won’t react to liquids or acids, making it ideal for food storage. That’s why Britain’s takeaway’s use it almost exclusively. They know a good thing when they see it.
The concerns about plastic food containers are unfounded. Maybe they come from wider concerns about the impact of plastic on our planet. There’s no need for worry. Takeaway packaging, properly used, is as good as anything we’ve yet found. It doesn’t leak or leach chemicals, it keeps food hot, is microwave-safe, and recyclable. What’s not to like?