How To Identify Which Plastic Containers Are Safe For Food Storage

Most of us eat food that has been stored in plastic at least once a day. Whether it’s a shop bought meal or some leftovers we’ve kept from the day before. But have you ever stopped to think about whether using plastic containers for food is safe? Did you know that there are different grades of plastic and some that aren’t safe to store food in? 

If you’re a prepper and you’re sorting your supplies for an emergency food storage, getting food safe plastic is essential. Emergency food supplies could be stored in plastic containers for months at a time. You’ll want to be sure that any food you’ve stored is safe to consume whenever you need it. 

We’ve done extensive research to help you identify the different types of common plastics and to learn which are safe to use for storing food. 

Just like you, we want to be as well informed as possible to keep our family and loved ones safe from harmful plastics. 

How To Know Which Plastics Are Safe for Food Storage 

All Food Plastics should have an FDA number on them. This number will be between 1-7 and can be found on the bottom of plastic containers within a triangle shape, made up of 3 arrows. 

Ideally, you want to aim to use plastics with 1, 2, 4 and 5 as FDA numbers. 

Try to avoid using plastics with 3, 6 and 7 as FDA numbers. 

Wondering what FDA stands for?

FDA stands for the Food and Drug Administration. This organization has strict guidelines for plastic manufacturers looking to offer their plastic containers to food providers and retailers. 

Knowing about this should help to give you peace of mind that you’re providing your family with food that has been safely stored in food grade plastic. 

In order to be FDA Compliant, plastics need to be able to:

  • withstand the environment that they’re going to be used in – for example: not undergoing any physical changes when exposed to high temperatures. 
  • withstand industrial strength cleaning
  • be compatible with the type of food it will be used for and not leach chemicals if the food is acidic or wet. 

Plastics That Are Safe for Food Storage

Whether you’re looking for containers to keep leftovers stored in, or you want to prepare for emergency food shortages, getting plastics that are safe for food storage is essential. 

Looking at the FDA number will quickly help you determine whether a container you’re considering will be appropriate for storing food. 

So here’s our list of plastics that are safe to store food in, and the numbers that match them. 

  • Plastic Number 1: PETE/ PET – (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • Plastic Number 2: HDPE – (High Density Polyethylene)
  • Plastic Number 4: LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
  • Plastic Number 5: PP – (Polypropylene)

Now, let’s look at each food safe plastic in more detail to enable you to make well informed decisions and ensure you never risk the health of you and your loved ones. 

Plastic Number 1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET/E)

This is one of the most common plastic types for food containers and if you look at jars or drinks containers that you have in your trash, you can probably find multiple examples of PETE plastic. It is usually clear so that you can easily see the contents inside. 

One of the main benefits of PETE is that it is FDA approved in its recycled state as well as its original state. This means that you can wash out containers made from PETE and re-use them safely for storing food and beverages. 

Which containers in your home are made from PET/E?

  • Large (2 liter) soda bottles
  • Salad dressing containers 
  • Vitamin tubs
  • Vegetable oil bottles
  • Peanut butter jars

PETE repels microorganisms and doesn’t break down easily so is good for long-term storage. It’s also a strong, lightweight plastic option which makes it even more appealing for storing food and water on expeditions or when out hiking. 


Plastic Number 2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Another very common household plastic is High Density Polyethylene. 

Many food grade buckets are made from HDPE so preppers may be familiar with this type of plastic and could even have containers made from it stocked up with dry goods already. 

These HDPE food grade buckets are ideal for storing food long term due to their large volume and durability. 

This plastic is weather resistant and long lasting. It has good temperature resistance and it’s not expensive to buy. Survivalists will appreciate its lightweight quality when using it in bug out bags or for food storage on emergency trips and expeditions. 

Which containers in your home are made from HDPE?

  • Butter containers 
  • Food storage buckets
  • Cereal box liners 
  • Some drinks bottles

Always be aware that some forms of recycled HDPE have been deemed unsafe by the FDA so check before you reuse containers. Avoid reusing them for drinking water too. 


Plastic Number 4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

This is a similar plastic to HDPE but it is much less rigid. This means it’s often used for food packaging materials such as squeezy bottles or cling wrap. The six pack rings on cans are often made from LDPE. 

In its virgin state (unrecycled) it is considered less toxic than many other plastics. It can be used to store food at a variety of temperatures without leaching toxins, and it repels microorganisms. 

Which containers in your home are made from LDPE?

  • Squeezy bottles for sauces or honey
  • Plastic bread bags
  • Shopping bags
  • Cling wrap / Plastic wrap 
  • Juice bottles
  • Six pack rings

It’s important to be aware that LDPE is not considered safe for food contact in a recycled state.


 Plastic Number 5: PP – (Polypropylene)

Polypropylene is tough yet lightweight making it a popular choice for single serve containers. It’s also often used in reusable containers designed for storing leftovers. 

One of the big advantages of PP is its high heat resistance. This helps to make it microwave safe – which means you don’t need to transfer leftovers before you reheat them. It is non volatile – so it doesn’t react with the food that you store in it regardless of the food’s state or acidity. 

Which containers in your home are made from PP?

  • Yogurt tubs 
  • Juice bottles
  • Straws

Plastics to Avoid for Food Storage

Knowing which food storage options you should avoid is really important and could help to avoid putting the health of you and your loved ones at risk. 

As well as the plastics listed below that should be completely avoided for food storage, you also need to remember to consider which plastics should be avoided when reheating or reusing.

Recycled LDPE should be avoided for food storage. If you’re looking for a food storage option to use in the microwave, choose a plastic such as Polypropylene with a high heat resistance. 

Plastic Number 3: PVC – (Polyvinyl Chloride)

The main issue with PVC is that dangerous chemicals are used in the manufacturing of the plastic. 

Although it hasn’t been confirmed that the toxic chemicals they contain such as lead and phthalates will taint the food, it’s definitely best to avoid them if possible. Use an alternative option such as HDPE or PETE. 

Which containers in your home are made from PVC?

  • Baby teething rings
  • Sandwich bags
  • Plastic kitchenware 

Plastic  Number 6: PS — (Polystyrene)

Polystyrene which has in fact been used for many years as a food storage container. However, it has been found that it can leach styrene which is considered a carcinogen and thus is a major health threat. Food should never be reheated in polystyrene

As a plastic, polystyrene is extremely bad for the environment and does not break down easily. This is something preppers and survivalists will want to consider if they’re looking for food safe plastic to take into the natural environment. 

Which containers in your home are made from Polystyrene?

  • Egg cartons
  • Styrofoam cups
  • Take away food containers
  • Multipack yogurt pots

Why are Plastics Harmful for Food Storage?

Not all plastics are harmful for food storage. We’ve created the list above to help you identify the safest plastics to use for storing your food at home or on the move. If you use the right plastic, it can have lots of advantages such as being; lightweight, weather resistant, long lasting and cheap to buy. 

The main issue with using plastics for food storage is that many plastics contain harmful chemicals including bisphenols such as BPAs and BPSs, and polychlorinated phenyls (PCBs). If these leach into food or enter the body via food consumption, they can cause health problems ranging from cancers to weakened immune systems. 

The presence of these chemicals in our food storage containers is particularly concerning when it’s estimated that we consume around 74,000 particles of microplastic per year. This can be from microplastics in food containers flaking off into the food itself, or from drinking water that has been contained in plastic water bottles and left in the sun. 

If you do have to use plastics other than those rated food grade safe by the FDA, always make sure that you only use them once. Do not reuse and always avoid heating the container. 

What are The Best Plastic Containers to Store Food In?

Plastic is a really useful material when it comes to storing food – either for carrying in a backpack or for prepping for emergency food shortages. You just need to make sure you choose the right type of food safe plastic. 

Why not try one of these plastic food storage options to suit your needs: 

1. Set of 5 Leak Proof Food Storage Containers

This set of 5 leak proof food storage containers are BPA free. The plastic containers are clear, allowing you to quickly identify the contents in an emergency. 

They’re durable and can be put in both the dishwasher and the microwave. These can be suitable for smaller food items or for dividing larger batch cooked meals into if you’re prepping for your family. 

Rubbermaid Brilliance Leak-Proof Food Storage Containers

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2. 1 Gallon Plastic Storage Containers +

These food safe storage containers are lightweight and easy to transport. They can hold up to 1 Gallon, making them ideal for storing dry goods or liquids in your home in case of situations such as a power outage. 

Made from PET they’re food grade safe and you can have peace of mind that you won’t be ingesting harmful chemicals. If you do decide to store water in them, it’s always best to ensure that they avoid exposure to direct sunlight. 

ljdeals 1 Gallon Clear Plastic Storage Containers Jars

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3. 5 Gallon Plastic Bucket Pail

These plastic buckets are made from HDPE which can withstand high temperatures. They are durable yet lightweight. 

Use these 5 gallon containers to store large volumes of dry goods such as oats, dried pasta or flour so that you’re always fully stocked in case of an emergency. 

The HDPE will give you the peace of mind that you can keep food stored here long term without any health risks. These buckets are also BPA free. 

 

House Naturals 5 Gallon Plastic Bucket

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4. Pyrex Glass Food Containers 

If you’re concerned about using plastic food containers, there are other options available. Although it’s less practical to use materials such as glass when you’re camping or hiking, you could consider glass food containers for storing your food at home or in your vehicle. 

Clear and with leak proof lids, glass food containers can be a good alternative to plastic food storage. They can be put in the oven and dishwasher on a regular basis without damage. 

 

Pyrex Simply Store Meal Prep Glass Food Storage Containers

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Conclusion

Tupperware and plastic food containers have been used for decades to store food in all different situations. As science and research has progressed, it’s clear that there’s a real divide between food safe plastic and plastics that can be harmful to us. 

There’s no denying that plastic is an extremely useful material for food storage – it’s lightweight, durable, weather resistant and cheap to buy. It is ideally suited to camping, hiking and other outdoor activities and is perfect for using in a get out bag or a bug out bag. 

Understanding the different types of plastics is vital in understanding what is the safest option to store your food and beverages. Make sure you consult our list and make the right choice for you and your family’s health and wellbeing.

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