You likely have storage containers in your cupboard for safe food storage. This is especially true if you prepare your meals in advance, save leftovers after a big meal, or cut fruits or vegetables. I have an entire cabinet full of storage containers for safe food storage! 

Storing your food properly is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from harmful bacteria that causes food poisoning. One of the best ways to do that is to refrigerate or freeze food as quickly as possible in containers with tight-fitting lids. 

Did you know the type of food containers is just as important? It may seem as simple as choosing what’s convenient. However, the type of food container really does matter for safe food storage. I will tell you the difference between plastic and glass containers and why you should always use glass food containers for safe food storage. 

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Safe Food Storage

Food storage containers are designed to safely preserve food, organize kitchen space, and make cooking easier. Any of us that are on unique or special diets know that meal prep is key to success. I try to prep my meals for the week so that I know I’ll have healthy food that doesn’t cause inflammation or a reaction even if my friends decide to go out to eat or the office orders lunch. Safe food storage containers come in handy in all of these cases.

The benefits of safe food storage goes well beyond convenience. Some of the benefits of safe food storage containers include: 

  • Keep food clean, fresh, and tasty – some food comes in containers that let in air or aren’t easy to store in the fridge or in your pantry (I’m looking at you bags of spinach). Putting that food into safe food storage containers helps keep things organized and the food fresh!
  • Protect the nutrient levels in food – we already know that the nutrient levels in our foods are declining every year so it’s important to do whatever we can to protect them. 
  • Help avoid food waste – when food spoils we tend to throw it out. If we can store it properly we avoid that excessive waste. 

Without the proper safe food storage, there is potential for bacteria or toxins to grow on food that could lead to food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

However, did you know that bacteria is already present in most of your food? It’s true. Bacteria gets into our food during processing, packaging, or when it is grown.1

Even organic foods are likely to be equally contaminated with bacteria.2

However, a simple washing of the food can clean off most bacteria. What’s more important is that bacteria that has contaminated your food goes into hibernation when put in the refrigerator or freezer until it is either washed off or dies when cooked properly. 

Temperatures for safe food storage are 39 degrees fahrenheit or below for the refrigerator and 0 degrees fahrenheit or below for the freezer.3 Next I will tell you about the foods that put you at a higher risk for food poisoning and safe temperatures to cook them to kill bacteria.

High-Risk Foods

If you’re following The Myers Way®, you’re not eating processed foods, GMOs, or preservatives. The chemicals used on these foods are designed to increase their shelf-life. While that may sound like a good idea when we’re talking about safe food storage, these chemicals are full of toxins that lead to autoimmune disease. 

Safe Food Storage: High Risk Foods – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®Safe Food Storage: High Risk Foods - Infographic - Amy Myers MD® Food Storage: High Risk Foods – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®

I always recommend a diet full of organic fruits, vegetables and meats. However, these foods are not immune to bacteria and don’t contain the toxic ingredients meant to keep them “fresh” so proper care in cooking and storing is still essential to keep them safe to eat.  Eggs, prepared salads, and meat are considered high-risk foods. Even dairy substitutes are at risk for bacteria that can lead to food poisoning.  

The best way to kill bacteria in food is to cook it to a safe temperature. Invest in a good food thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to the proper temperature. The CDC recommends the following temperature guidelines for food safety:4

  • Poultry: 165 degrees fahrenheit
  • Whole cuts of meat: 145 degrees fahrenheit
  • Ground meat: 160 degrees fahrenheit
  • Fresh ham: 145 degrees fahrenheit
  • Fish: 145 degrees fahrenheit
  • Leftovers or casseroles: 165 degrees fahrenheit

Now that you know the high-risk foods and the safe temperatures for cooking and safe food storage, let’s discuss the differences between plastic and glass containers for safe food storage. 

Plastic Food Containers

Let’s begin by talking about plastic food containers. Plastic food containers are the most convenient and appear to be the most affordable way to store food. However, they come with a couple of considerable drawbacks. 

For starters, remember that you cannot put plastic food containers in the freezer. The freezing temperatures are detrimental to plastic and can cause it to deteriorate. The other issue with plastic food containers for safe food storage is that many plastic containers contain toxins like Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been shown to imitate estrogen and other hormones in the body. Here are a few pros and cons of plastic food containers for safe food storage. 

Pros of Plastic Food Containers

Plastic Containers are Inexpensive

Plastic food containers are relatively cheap and sold in bulk, making them affordable and convenient. You can find a set of five medium sized plastic containers for under $10. Keep in mind, you often get what you pay for. In the long term, once you weigh the cons and the cost of replacing plastic containers on a consistent basis – this may no longer be a pro!

Plastic Containers are Light

Plastic food containers are much lighter than their glass counterparts, not to mention slimmer.  Because they’re so thin, they can be stacked for easier storage when you don’t use them. If you’re meal prepping and using multiple containers to carry your lunch to work it can be very tempting to go for lightweight containers.

Plastic Containers are Hard to Break

Plastic food containers are durable and won’t break if they are dropped. This is perfect if you have clumsy children who drop everything and could step on broken glass if they drop a glass food storage container. However even if they are safer for children, plastic containers are commonly made with phthalates, a chemical compound that gives plastic its flexibility.5 These chemicals are toxic and add to your body’s toxic burden. More on that next.

Cons of Plastic Food Containers

Not Environmentally Friendly

Did you know that we’ve reached the point where we purchase one million plastic bottles every minute? Or that 91% of those are not recycled, even though they’re made from materials that are easy to recycle?6 Or that it requires more than 17 million barrels of oil to produce plastic bottles each year?7 That’s not even adding in the waste from plastic food containers. We tend to see plastic as disposable and part with it easily, adding to our landfills and polluting the environment.

Plastic Contains Toxins 

I mentioned phthalates, which are everywhere including your personal care products, and bisphenol A (BPA). These are the primary toxins in your plastic food containers yet not all plastic food containers contain BPA. 

Plastic products are given resin identification codes (RIC) for ease of recycling and indicate if they contain BPA. These codes are located on the bottom of your plastic food storage containers. Plastics with an RIC of 1, 2, 4, and 5 are the safest. Plastics with an RIC of 3, 6, or 7 probably contain some concentration of bisphenol A (BPA), and should always be avoided. 

Plastic Food Containers Can’t Store Frozen Food

Freezer temperatures can cause plastics to deteriorate and leach phthalates and BPA into your food, especially during defrosting. This means they could enter your body when you eat them. You should never freeze your food in any plastic.

Plastic Stains Easily

Certain foods and sauces can become trapped in the pores of plastic’s porous surface. Depending on the food, this can leave stains in the container. The likelihood of staining is increased if the plastic is heated in a microwave because heat expands the plastic’s pores and allows the sauce to get trapped in them. While this may not be a huge issue to everyone, the unsightly appearance and smell may make your lunch a little less appetizing. 

Plastic Is Unsafe to Heat

If you put a plastic container in the microwave it probably won’t melt. However, even if it doesn’t melt, it does open up the pores to allow chemicals to leach into your food. Plastic food containers marked “microwave safe” only means the container won’t melt, not that it’s actually “safe” to do. You should never put plastic containers in an oven to heat food. 

Glass Food Containers

Now let’s discuss glass food containers for safe food storage. Glass is a sturdy material that does not release chemicals or toxins into food, However, glass food containers can be expensive, heavier and take up more space. Here is a look at the pros and cons of glass containers. 

Pros of Glass Food Containers

Glass Containers are Easy to Clean

Glass has a non-porous surface, which makes it easier to clean. Because it doesn’t have pores like plastic, food particles can’t get stuck in them and grow bacteria. Glass doesn’t deteriorate over time and can survive hundreds of cleanings in the dishwasher. 

Glass Can Be Put in the Freezer

Freezing temperatures do not damage glass the way they do plastic which makes them ideal to use to store frozen food. While glass can handle freezing temperatures and being heated, it’s not a great conductor of heat. If you put hot glass into cold water, or vice versa, the surface contracts and causes the glass to break so it’s important to heat or cool glass slowly if it’s been exposed to an extreme temperature. When moving food from the freezer to be cooked or storing leftovers I recommend leaving the container on the counter for a short time to cool down or heat up before doing so.

Glass Containers are Safe for Heating

Despite not being a great conductor for heat, glass is generally safe to put in the oven and microwave. Most makers of glass food containers such as Pyrex mark their products safe for use in the oven which means the glass can withstand the heat and doesn’t have any coatings that would make it unsafe. 

Glass Food Containers Are Toxin Free

Glass containers won’t add to your body’s toxic burden. Glass containers are toxic-free and don’t contain phthalates or BPA so nothing is leaching out of glass into your food.

Cons of Glass Food Containers

Glass Breaks Easily

Glass is extremely fragile and that should be considered. If you drop a glass container, it will likely break and could cause injury or get glass into your food. It’s also expensive to replace. On a positive note, glass is 100% recyclable if it breaks. 

Glass Is Heavier than Plastic

Glass is significantly heavier than plastic, which can make it hard to travel with. It also makes storage more difficult, as glass containers are harder to stack and take up more space in your cabinet than plastic containers. 

Glass Containers are Expensive

Glass containers are typically more expensive and typically aren’t sold in bulk. You won’t find a deal of 5 containers for less than $10. Good glass containers can cost up to $50 for a set of 5. On the upside, glass containers last longer so you won’t have to replace them often. Sometimes if you do the math they even come out less experience over the long term!

Which is Better For Safe Food Storage?

In today’s toxic world full of heavy metals, plastics, mold, and synthetic chemicals, there is a heavy toxic burden on our bodies already. That’s why I recommend using glass containers for safe food storage over plastic ones.

You might be thinking you aren’t exposed to many toxins because you live a very “clean” lifestyle. In reality, you are exposed to thousands of toxins every day, even if you don’t live in a polluted area or work in an industrial job. 

The effects of toxins on our bodies is complex. After all, there are thousands of chemicals out there, and we’re just beginning to understand how they work on the body–not to mention, how they work in conjunction with one another. What we do know is that a heavy toxic burden puts you at greater risk for developing an autoimmune disease

All of this may seem overwhelming, but there is a solution. Yes, you will always be exposed to toxins in your environment, however you can take steps to lighten your toxic burden. 

Using glass food containers for safe food storage is one great step to take to lower your body’s toxic exposure. With my history of autoimmunity, heavy metal overload and mold exposure, I make sure all of my food containers are glass for safe food storage! 

FAQ about Safe Food Storage

What are temperatures for food safety?

Poultry and leftovers or casseroles should be cooked to165 degrees fahrenheit. Whole cuts of meat, fish, and fresh ham should be cooked to 145 degrees fahrenheit, while ground meat should be cooked to 160 degrees fahrenheit. temperatures for safe food storage are 39 degrees fahrenheit or below for the refrigerator and 0 degrees fahrenheit or below for the freezer.

Are plastic food containers safe?

Generally speaking, yes. However, plastic food containers cannot be put in the freezer, they are not environmentally friendly, and contain toxins such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA.

Are glass containers better than plastic?

In today’s toxic world full of heavy metals, plastics, mold, and synthetic chemicals, there is a heavy toxic burden on our bodies already. That’s why I recommend using glass containers for safe food storage over plastic ones.

Acetyl-Glutathione bottle

Article Sources

  1. Bacteria and Viruses. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2021.
  2. Organic Foods No More Safe than Conventional. Lindsey Konkel. Live Science. 2012.
  3. Storage Temperatures and Procedures. The BC Cook Articulation Committee. Food Safety, Sanitation, and Personal Hygiene. 2015.
  4. Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016.
  5. Phthalates Factsheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021.
  6. We're Now At A Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute - 91% Of Which Are Not Recycled. Trevor Nace. Forbes. 2020.
  7. The US Consumes 1500 Plastic Water Bottles Every Second, a Fact by Watershed. Treehugger. 2020.