Bisphenol A is the chemical commonly referred to as BPA, used to make plastic containers such as those used for frozen TV dinners. Exposure to BPA has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, reproductive abnormalities and a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer. Testing done in 2008 by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal found that plastic containers thought to be microwave safe can leach BPA into food when the food is heated directly in the plastic containers. A 2013 study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found BPA levels in pregnant women to be positively associated with miscarriage risk.
Study the TV dinner packaging on the outside of the box and look for a description of the food tray. Trays made from paper or cardboard do not contain BPA.
Remove the frozen dinner from the package and look at the food container. If the container is made from plastic, turn it over and look for the number on the bottom. Plastic containers marked with a number 7 may contain BPA. Plastic containers marked 1, 2, 4 or 5 will not contaminate your food unless the tray is heated.
Thaw your TV dinner by placing the tray in your refrigerator. Alternatively, leave the tray out at room temperature, covered, until the food around the edges of the compartments has softened.
Spoon out the food in plastic trays and transfer it to a glass container. Throw away the plastic tray container and do not reuse or wash in the dishwasher.
Cover your glass container with a paper-towel and not with plastic wrap to heat your dinner in the microwave. Alternatively, heat your dinner on the stove using a pot with a lid.
Store any leftover food in glass containers, or allow the food to cool first before storing in plastic designated for re-use. Do not leave food out for more than two hours before refrigerating, or within one hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Items you will need
- TV Dinner and packaging
- Glass or ceramic bowl
- Paper towel
- Pot with a lid
- Look for frozen dinners packaged in cardboard containers. These brick like containers – such as those used for frozen spinach or juice boxes – do not contain BPA. The numbers on the back of plastic containers correspond to its risk of leaching BPA. Type 1 plastic is considered the safest and plastic number 7 poses the greatest risk. In general, the softer the plastic tray, the higher the chances are of BPA leaching into your food when the plastic is heated.
- Plastic containers marked on the bottom with a 1, 2, 4 or 5 were originally thought to be safe for microwaving, however, studies conducted in 2008 have found that some leaching of the chemical BPA can occur when these plastics are heated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about the negative effects of BPA levels in pregnant women, infants and small children. A 2011 study conducted by Environmental Health Perspectives confirmed that even plastics that don’t contain BPA -- such as the plastic film used to cover frozen dinners -- release other estrogen-like chemicals when heated.
- Mother Nature Network: Plastic in the Microwave: Is BPA in Your frozen dinner?
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Analysis Report
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Effects of BPA and Phthalates on Conception and Pregnancy
- National Public Radio: Study: Most Plastics Leach Hormone-Like Chemicals
- Consumer Reports: Simple Strategies Can Reduce BPA Levels
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images