Can I still eat food with melted plastic from the oven?
In this article, we will answer whether you can still eat food that was cooked with melted plastic in the oven, and how to use plastic safely in the oven.
Can I still eat food with melted plastic from the oven?
You can eat the food that was cooked with the plastic if the plastic did not melt. However, if the plastic was melted, the food that was in contact with the melted plastic should not be consumed, because it is no longer considered safe.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, plastics can release chemicals into the food when melted, which are harmful to health (1).
Why should you not eat food cooked with melted plastic?
You should not eat food cooked with melted plastic because plastics contain many chemicals and additives which are leached into the food when exposed to high temperatures.
Some of these harmful chemicals are phthalates, poly-fluorinated chemicals, bisphenol A (BPA), brominated flame retardants and antimony trioxide. For instance, phthalates present in the PVC (which is used in packaging for fruit juice and cooking oil, for example) are related to higher incidences of cancer, genetic alterations and birth defects (2).
PET is a material commonly found in salad dressings and beverages and contains antimony in its composition. Through heating, this additive can migrate into food. Antimony is a possible human carcinogen.
Why should you not eat food cooked with burnt plastic?
You should not eat food cooked with burnt plastic because when plastic burns, it releases a variety of harmful chemicals to the environment , which can be absorbed by the food.
Acetone, Benzaldehyde, Polychlorinated dibenzofuran, Toluene and Propylene are some of the compounds which may cause damage to the respiratory tract, skin lesions, eye irritation and others (2).
Although many plastics are relatively heat resistant and safe to be used in contact with food, including to be used in the microwave oven, under the high temperatures exposure of conventional ovens, plastics melt and burn and are destroyed.
As a consequence, their chemical molecules react and are released, becoming a health risk. In the table below, some examples of these harmful chemicals are cited, as well as the possible risks related to individuals who expose themselves to them:
|Chemical released||Possible health effect|
|Acetaldehyde||It damages the nervous system, causing lesions.|
|Vinyl chloride||Carcinogenic, irritating to eyes, skin and respiratory system. Effect on the central nervous system, liver, spleen, blood-forming organs.|
|Xylene||Irritates the eyes. It can also affect the central nervous system, reduces the level of consciousness and impairs learning ability.|
|Hydrochloric acid||Corrosive to the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract.|
|Formaldehyde||Serious eye damage, carcinogenic, may cause pulmonary oedema.|
|Polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxin||Carcinogenic, irritates the skin, eyes and respiratory system. It damages the circulatory, digestive and nervous system, liver, bone marrow.|
Should you clean the oven after the plastic melts inside it?
Yes, you should clean the oven after the plastic melts inside it, as a method to eliminate the harmful volatiles that possibly remained inside the oven after the melting or burning accident (3).
In fact, regular cleaning of the oven is recommended every three to six months in order to improve the quality of the baked food.
First, you should open the oven door and let the oven cool down and blow away the gasses with a fan. Be careful to not breath the volatiles, which are potentially toxic.
To clean the melted plastic, use a spatula to scrub it off. After, use chemical oven-cleaners to remove the residual parts or other chemicals, such as ammonia. It is important to use gloves and safety devices, such as eye protectors and masks to handle these products (3).
What plastics can you use in the conventional oven?
CPET (crystallized polyethylene terephthalate) is a conventional and microwave oven-safe copolymer of ethylene glycol with either terephthalic acid or dimethyl terephthalate (4,5).
Containers and cooking trays of CPET can be used in conventional ovens at temperatures below 200°C (400°F) (4).
Studies showed that by cooking food in the oven at 175°C (350°F) using these cooking trays, the migration of chemicals into the food was minimal.
Other plastics which are labeled by the manufacturers as “conventional oven safe” can be used in the conventional oven, however, you should follow the recommendations provided by the manufacturer regarding the temperature of use (3).
What plastics can you use in the microwave oven?
Plastics that are microwave-oven safe are the ones labeled as “microwave safe”. Examples of such plastics are Polyester, PET and Polypropylene (5).
Other materials rather than plastics are heat proof glass (such as Pyrex and Glass-ceramic (such as Corning Ware).
If the plastic is microwave friendly, it does mean that it is safe to use for the oven because an oven has much higher temperatures than a microwave.
In this article, we answered whether you can still eat food if you burnt plastic in the oven, and how to use plastic safely in the oven.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Ask. Is it safe if meat was cooked with plastic wrapping left on it?
- Alabi, Okunola A., et al. Public and environmental health effects of plastic wastes disposal: a review. J Toxicol Risk Assess, 2019, 5, 1-13.
- Geiger, M. Oven Cleaning.Getting the Oven Ready for Holiday Roasting and Baking. Iowa State University.
- Castle, Laurence, et al. Migration of poly (ethylene terephthalate)(PET) oligomers from PET plastics into foods during microwave and conventional cooking and into bottled beverages. J Food Protect, 1989, 52, 337-342.
- Glossary of Packaging Terms. United States Department of Agriculture.