Is eating and drinking hot food in a unicel really dangerous for health?

¿Comer y beber alimentos calientes en unicel es realmente peligroso para la salud?

Heats plastic only if they are identified as suitable for microwave use.

Photo: Chris McGrath / Getty Images

We frequently consume food in expanded polystyrene (EPS) or “unicel”. You have probably ever heard someone say that consuming hot food served in a unicel or heating it in this plastic can affect your health, such as being the cause of cancer, we will see if this is true.

The unicel is used to contain food everywhere, restaurants, schools, hospitals, supermarkets, asylums, with the food we order to go, instant soups, cold meats, dairy products or coffee, to give examples.

Why is it used so much in the food industry?

  • Resistant. It does not dissolve with liquids.
  • Light
  • Provides good thermal insulation. Hot foods are kept hot, cold foods are kept cold.
  • Keeps food fresh longer
  • Low cost. It costs up to five times less than paper or reusable (reusable containers generate more costs for cleaning, labor, water, electricity, detergent).

What is the unicel made of?

Of polystyrene converted into a foam material (may have more than 95 percent air).

Polystyrene is made by bonding or polymerizing the styrene, a chemical that has a sweet odor and is highly volatile. It also occurs naturally in food. like strawberries, cinnamon, coffee, and beef, says Chemical Safety Facts.

Can any compound migrate from the unicel to your food?

Yes. Styrene and other volatile compounds present in polystyrene (unicel) food packaging they have the possibility of migrating into the food that comes into contact with thembut low certain conditions.

All food packaging (glass, aluminum, paper and plastics (such as polystyrene)) contain substances that can “migrate” into very small amounts to food or drink.

They can stay small amounts of styrene in the unicel after manufacturing, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated both the safety of the material in contact with food (polystyrene) as the safety of the substance that can migrate (styrene).

Can styrene cause cancer?

Yes, based on limited evidence from styrene cancer in humans. It comes from occupational studies showing an increased risk of cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, and genetic damage to the white blood cells or lymphocytes of workers exposed to styrene, explains the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

How safe is the use of unicel in food?

The FDA notes that polystyrene is safe for use in contact with food. The amount of styrene that migrates or is transferred when in contact with a food is less than the estimated average intake for the United States, which is equivalent to 9 microgram / day.

Is there an increased risk of contamination of hot food in unicel?

There is no migration of the styrene monomer above the daily intake.

Can food or beverages in microwaveable containers be heated?

Food or beverages contained in Styrofoam or any other plastic packaging can be microwaved only if they are identified as suitable for microwave use. Otherwise, the Food and Development Research Center of Mexico does not recommend heating the food in its container in the microwave.

Who is exposed to ethylene?

People are exposed to styrene in the workplace and in the environment. When breathing indoor air that has styrene fumes from building materials, photocopiers, tobacco smoke and other products. It can be absorbed, inhaled and through the skin.

Living near industrial facilities or hazardous waste sites is another way that people can be exposed to styrene.


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