Don't panic, plastic and styrofoam packaging are OK

Fears regarding adverse chemical reactions between hot water or soup and disposable polystyrene and plastic cups and bowls are misplaced (Enact law to ban plastic and styrofoam takeaway packaging, by Mr Joe Teo Kok Seah; May 5).

The Cancer Research UK website stated that even in experiments where plastic bottles are heated as high as 60 deg C for many hours, the levels of chemicals that moved into food and drink were far under levels that are considered unsafe.

In addition, it noted that there is no good evidence that bisphenol-A (BPA) can cause cancer in people. The European Food Safety Authority did a full scientific review of BPA and concluded there was no health risk.

Several years ago, the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety conducted a study to assess the safety and suitability of instant cup-noodle containers (in which the noodles are cooked in boiling water). These containers are mainly made of polyethylene-coated paper, expanded polystyrene/foam polystyrene and polypropylene plastic.

It concluded that under proper usage, these containers are unlikely to cause food safety problems.

In view of these, it would not be prudent for extreme reactions such as a ban on plastic and styrofoam takeaway food packages.

It is worth noting that many paper products used to package food are laminated with polyethylene or chemicals that contain fluoride, and are thus no different from plastic and styrofoam in their impact on health.

Of far greater concern is the effect of non-biodegradable food packaging on our environment.

Amy Loh Chee Seen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Don't panic, plastic and styrofoam packaging are OK'. Print Edition | Subscribe