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SAFE?! portable storage containers

Hi, I am looking for the best portable storage containers, like for taking lunch to work in, the glad or ziplock disposable ones pose a health risk when it comes to microwaving and durability isn't all that great, I find I have to replace them once a month or so...anyone have an eco-friendly, human safe product they like?

Thanks in advance...

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  1. Pyrex makes small "Pyrex Containers", I have two, they hold about 20 oz, with a pyrex cover. They are heavier than disposables and they will break if dropped.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alan408

      I have Pyrex ones, too, and they are great. The containers are glass, (I think, in any event, not plastic), the covers are plastic, with a vent hole you open for microwaving. The food doesn't have to come into contact with the cover. They come in different sizes and shapes. I have a 5 cup, 3 and 2/3(?) cup, and something smaller.

      Another option is a Zojirushi Mr. Bento lunch jar. These are stacked plastic (unfortunately) containers (3 or 4) that nestle inside an insulated container with a strap or carry bag. The idea is that you put hot food in some of them and they stay hot until lunch, hence no need to microwave. Meanwhile the top containers can hold cold food and they stay cold. They were made for Japanese workers to take soup, rice, probably pickles or other food to work. I love them, but they're not ideal if you want to microwave and don't want plastic. They sell them in big Asian markets, but you can also buy (and look at them, there are different models) on amazon.

    2. I know this isn't exactly what you're asking, but the Ziploc brand containers I have (the newer ones, with the screw-on lids) are supposed to be microwave safe. They are also made out of plastic with the recycling code "5" (you can check for the recycling code on the bottom of plastic ware inside the recycling triangle symbol), which is generally considered a "safe" plastic. I suppose it all depends on how paranoid you want to be about what future discoveries we will make about the nature of plastics. My current approach is that I'll use "safe" plastics for short term storage (like sending in my kids lunches) but be more careful and use pyrex for long-term storage (like leftovers in the fridge which may stick around 4-7 days). I figure the possibility of my kids breaking the glass and cutting themselves badly poses a greater risk than the as-of-yet-unknown danger in the "safe" plastics (codes 1, 2, 4, and 5). With an adult, perhaps it's less of an issue.

      The real concern lately (BPAs) has been about plastics with the recycling code "7". If you have a look, it's on a whole lot of your prepared food containers, but probably not so much plastic storage ware. I have yet to discover a plastic dish or tupperware in my kitchen, personally, that falls in the "unsafe" category, but a lot of my prepared food containers do...

      1. I agree with the glass container recommendations! Easy to wash and reuse, perfect for baking (double duty is always a plus), and microwavable.


        1 Reply
        1. Thanks everybody, looks like pyrex is the choice...


          1. I'm back working out of my home office but when I worked downtown, I used public transportation and carrying glass wasn't an option. Too heavy, a breakage risk, and they frequently leaked. I hated eating out of them too.
            I kept a set of dishes and flatware at the office. My own coffee mug, a decent sized soup bowl, a smaller sized plate and an all purpose really large pasta plate similar (and cheaper) to this one but mine was flatter. http://www.crateandbarrel.com/family.... It could hold a huge lunch salad with some kind of protein added or leftover from the previous night supper.
            I carried lunch in a plastic container and microwaved the food in/on the real plates - NOT in the plastic.
            The problem with plastics leaching is not when the food is cold, but when it is heated in the MW. Avoid plastic with a number 7 in the triangle on the bottom of the container. The safer numbers are 1, 2, and 5. You can store foods at home in glass and transfer them to plastic for the short trip to the office and short term storage until lunchtime.
            You won't die in a few hours.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MakingSense

              Good info. I've been giving people info about glass containers and didn't think about your public transportation dilemma. Thanks for sharing. http://www.desksnacker.com

            2. I have had luck with vacu-fresh containers. The long one gets used for herbs in the fridge and as a lunch box. It has side clips and a vac valve, but I still put a rubber band around it.

              Others: klip it (at the container store) and wrap mats at reusablebags.com. Wrap mats make me happy because I'm using half the plastic bags that I used to.

              Last note: Those hot and cold silver thermal bags you see at the grocery. I use the smallest size to carry my lunch in in the summer. Container fits in the thin thermal bag, bag goes in the backpack or other such bag. You can rip off the printed plastic lining with the writing so it's just silver. It makes is slightly less dorky.

              1. sorry to bump an old thread.

                i read from an amazon review that quoted her/his email from zojirushi corporate that said bpa (and plastic leeching) isn't a problem for the zojirushi mr bento lunch jar lines because they use the safer plastics (you know, not #7).

                5 Replies
                1. re: wotcher

                  Rubbermaid makes lines of microwave safe food storage containers (the Premier line is my favorite) which is #7 but which also is NSF certified. I don't think they could possibly be NSF certified if there were any food safety issue associated with them. As such, I have grave doubts about the claim there is anything objectionable about #7 plastic, at least on those particular products. The NSF certification is pretty bullet-proof in matters of food safety.

                  1. re: johnb

                    I believe the NSF safety standards focus on high temperature washing in a restaurant kitchen, in effect, the ability to kill bacteria. When people worry about the safety of plastic, they are usually thinking about rumors of leaching of cancer causing (or other wise toxic) chemicals into the food that is stored in them. That group tends to fear anything plastic, or with a 'chemically' sounding name.

                    If the marketing of plastic water bottles in outdoor shops is any indication, manufacturers have found bpa free plastics that are similar to Lexan. Whether they think bpa is a problem or not, it is easier to adjust to marketing realities, than to fight perceptions.

                    1. re: paulj

                      No, NSF goes far far beyond that, and covers all aspects of safe food and water, along with lots of other things (bottled water is included, btw). Here is just the opening page of their consumer section.


                      1. re: johnb

                        My main encounter with NSF has been the marking on restaurant pots and pans. I also have a couple of Lexan storage containers from the restaurant supply store (2qt clear, square, with green plastic lids), that have the NSF marking.

                        There is no evidence that NSF does its own evaluation of the safety of plastics. My guess is that if they are government (FDA?) approved for food storage, NSF goes along with that. Same would apply to non-stick coatings on pans, and the aluminum of sheet pans.

                        Can you point to a page on the NSF site that discusses the choice of plastic?

                        1. re: paulj

                          I too mainly came to know of them through their certifications of restaurant equipment, and I too find their web site a bit dense to navigate once you start looking around in the bowels of the place, and so I really can't help. If you're really interested, maybe you could try a direct contact.

                          I'm not an expert; my understanding is that they participate in the development of standards, but mainly they certify that a particular product/manufacturer is in compliance with whatever the relevant standard is, through audits and tests. It's not a matter of "going along," but rather the reverse, ie making sure the applicable standards are being met. That said, they state clearly in all their materials that their main purpose in life is safety of food, water, and other things too (toys!), and I accept they wouldn't jeopardize their purpose for existence by giving their imprimatur, almost literally, to anything that didn't meet that basic criterion.

                          They certify many things--one of the oddest ones is toilet paper. Don't laugh. I have a septic tank, and anyone like me is very interested in not clogging up his drainfield system and getting stuck with very expensive repairs. Their certification is related specifically to the safety of that product for septic tanks and systems. So I buy tissue with the NSF seal on the package (mostly Georgia-Pacific). It's a great help.

                          As to the plastic safety controversy, maybe there's something to it, but to me it has the earmarks of internet-based hysteria (cell-phones and aluminum) and lacks much in the way of credible scientific underpinnings. That said, proving these things one way or the other takes time, so if one is worried about it just avoid such things--there are many alternative available. But IMO your chances of survival will be increased much more by looking both ways before crossing the street, and staying indoor during storms, than by avoiding these plastics.