Use of plastic with hot foods

A lot of vendors put freshly prepared hot foods into plastic bags here, and the common practice is to keep them wrapped in that plastic while eating them.

Why are food vendors using plastic so much instead of a safe material like paper?

Is there a general lack of awareness here about the dangers of plastic, and the leaching of chemicals into food and drink, in particular when plastic is heated?

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Pulp and paper are expensive. Plastics are a large industry here. Health considerations take a back seat to money.


That is a common practice in the US as well with to-go containers. Not sure if they are HDPE, but I doubt the bags people are eating hot food from are.

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As well as the mindset of the convenience driven consumer.

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Either bring your own container(s) to the vendor, or don’t eat that stuff.

If your Chinese is good enough, you coudl also consider telling them that what they are doing is really bad for their customers’ health.


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Does this mean that HDPE is safer than other kinds of plastic for hot food?

While I agree in principle, I wonder about the details. There is supposedly a difference between “microwave-safe plastic wrap” and non-microwave-safe plastic wrap, presumably a difference in the type of plastic, how it reacts when heated, and what the temperature limits are before bad things start to happen – though I’m also curious what exactly those bad things are and how bad it really is. Do you have any more information on the health effects and if certain types of plastic are better than others?

Here, for example, is an optimistic-sounding article saying that if a plastic container is microwave-safe, and as long as you don’t melt it, you’re probably safe: Does the Use of Plastic Containers in the Microwave Cause Cancer? | Moffitt .

On the other hand, I do recall on occasions buying food from a convenience store, having the clerk heat it up in the microwave, and then noticing that the container seems slightly warped from the heat. This then becomes a complicated question of how much toxic effect is caused by how much heat.

On a related note, I recently heard that ordinary PET bottles of water or other drinks have the same problem, if stored in a sunny place. The sun and/or heat apparently can cause some kind of chemicals to be released into the liquid which you then consume. Again, though, it’s a question of degree.

That is my understanding Hayashi, but I am at the will of the powers that be when it comes to confirming that.

I’m having a hard time picturing what kind of plastic bag would be used for this purpose; my image of a “plastic bag” is the thin, wrinkly kind you use for shopping, but I can’t imagine hot food being placed into one of those. What kind of plastic bags and what kind of food are you talking about?

Come to Taiwan and see it personally. In fact, a lot of hot pot restaurants in the US that I have been to do the same.

Picture a kid holding a pet goldfish in a plastic bag filled with water. That kind.


Taiwan entry on the right.


That sounds like a fairly sturdy bag, actually. On a related note, I have seen (and eaten…) frozen foods sold in these kinds of plastic bags (with vent holes) that are designed to be heated directly in a microwave, in direct contact with the food. Example:

I would hope that such plastic bags, designed for microwave use in direct contact with the food, have been tested to be safe…

On the other hand, judging from the wrinkles, that plastic bag looks pretty flimsy indeed, and prone to melting.

Is the purple object in the background to confirm verification of authenticity? :beer: Kissing ring.

They wrinkle, but they’re not flimsy.

It for sure won’t melt, but no clue what’s leaching out of it.

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Actually not authentic, that rubber band? gives the game away.

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Doing a bit more searching, it seems there is a cooking technique called “sous vide” (What Is Sous Vide?) that involves cooking foods that have been vacuum-sealed in plastic bags in not-quite-boiling water. One would assume that the plastic bags used for this style of cooking can withstand the not-quite-boiling liquid temperatures, so if such a bag is used to serve food, it might be safe.

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Very common in chain restaurants.

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That’s very popular in Taiwan, but not exactly the same kind of plastic bag used for takeout soups.

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I am tied close to home now. Loving the challenge from afar though.