Food storage containers: keep or toss

If you have cupboards and drawers filled with mismatched containers, take some time to sort out and organize for food safety's sake.

Do you have a cupboard or drawer in your kitchen filled with plastic food containers?  You might want to take a look at them and inventory which ones should be kept or recycled.  The American Cleaning Institute tells us if your plastic food container cannot hold its shape in hot water or the microwave, it should be tossed or recycled.  Most transport food containers, or food containers that once contained yogurt, butter or other food product are not always designed to be used to store food in.  They are meant to be one-time use only for our food.  A food grade container is one that will not transfer non-food chemicals into the food, and contains no chemicals which would be hazardous to human health.

Take stock of your food storage containers, if you are expecting guests for the holidays or hosting a large get-together, you may be expected to have containers on hand to stash leftovers.  Plastic food containers are most common, cling wrap, foil and food grade plastic bags will also come in handy.  Glass containers are another option, as they are sturdier and less likely to stain. 

Taking care of your reusable food storage containers is important to ensuring they will last.  Here are some tips:

    • Remover any leftover food and rinse in hot water
    • Wipe out extra grease using a paper towel
    • Wash in warm soapy water or in a dishwasher (using the top rack)
Removing stains
    • Soak containers using a mild bleach solution (2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water) be sure to drain and air dry before next use
    • For containers with odors, try using baking soda and water scrub (1 teaspoon of baking soda with one cup of water), or try undiluted vinegar
    • Make sure to wash the container after any of these stain removal steps
    • If the stain remains, recycle or throw the container away
Avoid future stains

Stains can be prevented by spraying the inside of the container with unflavored cooking spray.  If you aren’t using the container for cooking you can try lining the container with foil or plastic wrap as a way to prevent food stains.  The American Cleaning Institute reminds us that tomato stains can be difficult, avoid microwaving tomato sauce in plastic containers.

Michigan State University Extension offers several articles on food container storage.  Should you find yourself prepping multiple meals to stock up for busy weeknight meals, looking for ways to store your refrigerated or frozen meals safely or just interested in what is currently being suggested, take some time to search our archived articles.  In addition to this one on how to take care of your containers you will learn more about how they are intended to be used and more!  Many of us want to make our planet a greener place, but we also should take steps to keep our food stored safely.

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