How To Know If Your Silicone Products Are Safe And Good For Food

This is part of a series on How To Reduce Your Use of Plastic in the Home

Sept. 1, 2020  Deborah Esplin

Do you know if your silicone products are safe and good for food storage? Do you know what silicone is and what are the advantages and disadvantages? Do you know how to test your silicone to see if it is pure and good to use with food? Can silicone be recycled? Do you know how silicone is made? These questions and more are answered in this blog post with 8 tips and answers around whether silicone bags are a good replacement for disposable plastic.

Silicone storage

What Is Silicone?

Silicon is an element in the Periodic Table. Silica is an oxide of silicon and is very abundant in the world and it is most often found in nature as quartz or sand. Silicone is made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and silicon.

The silica is extracted and made into silicon and then mixed with the other ingredients to make silicone. The direct materials that go into making silicone are all renewable resources, but the manufacturing process is multi-stage requires the use of high-heat furnaces that are fueled by fossil fuels. So the manufacturing of silicone is not 100% eco-friendly.

Silicone is sometimes called rubber or synthetic rubber, but it is not natural rubber. Silicone is also sometimes called plastic, but it is not plastic as it is not made from fossil fuels. Depending on whom you ask, it may be called rubber or plastic and sometimes an elastomer, but it is actually a polymer that behaves like rubber and like plastic.  Silicone research has a long history and has slowly become more and more common as more types and uses for silicone are invented. It was the material used in 1969 for the sole of the boots worn by Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon.

In the 1980s the first silicone cooking tools were invented; spatulas. Over time silicone bakeware, storage ware, and other products for food and kitchen use were invented. Silicone storage bags are a fairly recent addition to the lineup.

Is silicone safe?

Is silicone safe to be used with food and in contact with food? Both the US and Canadian governments recognize food-grade silicone as safe for contact and use with food. Generally, silicone is considered to be chemically inert, which means that it will not react with foods and not leach chemicals into the food.

However, there have been some studies that have found that silicone may leach certain compounds when it has been in contact with alcohol. One study found that soaking silicone baby bottles nipples in milk for 6 hours did not cause any leaching however soaking silicone in alcohol after 72 hours did cause some leaching of chemicals called siloxanes.

However, who is going to soak their silicone in alcohol? The European Union considers some siloxanes to be endocrine disrupters, however, Health Canada says that the siloxanes from silicone may have an effect on the natural environment but are not considered to be a threat to human health.

The most important thing is that you should only buy food grade or medical grade silicone to use with food and that you follow the instructions for that product. Silicone products can generally be used for cooking, baking, storing, and, freezing but they do have temperature limits and those limits can vary with the manufacturer so it is important to follow the recommendations for each product.

Is silicone durable?

Silicone is very durable. We do not yet know how long it lasts for but it has a long lifespan. Many silicone products can be put in the dishwasher but not all. It is important to respect the recommendations of the manufacturer to get the longest use out of your silicone. For use with food as an alternative storage solution to plastic and as a cutting mat, silicone should be safe and last a long time.

Can silicone be recycled?

Yes, silicone can be completely recycled, but you may not find a recycling facility in your area. Most municipal recycling programs do not take silicone. However, some manufacturers will take their products back, but not all. That is something that you could check when you buy the products.

There is also TerraCycle which is a program in Canada and some other countries around the world where you can send back many materials, including silicone for recycling. However, there is a cost to this. TerraCycle does have some free recycling programs, but they do not yet a free program for silicone. They accept the material, but you must pay to send it to them. As a group or community, people could share the cost and send their silicone back to TerraCycle.

If silicone does end up in a landfill, like plastic it does not biodegrade like plastic and it is less likely to leach harmful chemicals into the environment, like plastic. Silicone is less likely to break down into small pieces that are then eaten by birds, animals, and sea life.

You Can Repurpose Your Silicone

There is no reason to send silicone to landfill. Send it to TerraCycle or repurpose it. When your silicone products do reach the end of their lifespan they can be repurposed. They can be cut into potholders, used under hot pots to protect counters and tables, used as jar openers, used to make spacers in potted plants, used to stop pipes from banging, used to fill mouse holes, and used for many other common household purposes. There are many uses of silicone once it no longer performs as intended. There are videos and articles that describe uses for silicone so there is no reason to send it to a landfill.

Other Advantages of Silicone

Using silicone storage wear will cut your use of disposable plastic. Silicone does not support the growth of microorganisms and has a very low air transfer rate so generally silicone keeps food fresh and prevents freezer burn (see my video of Sept. 8, 2020, with the results of the testing of different foods stored in plastic and silicone). Silicone does not break or crack and most products are water-tight and do not leak.

How To Test The Quality Of Your Silicone?

Food and medical-grade silicone should not have fillers as these fillers can leach chemicals into the food. You should always look for products that say food-grade, medical-grade, or approved for food-contact on them. You can also test the quality of your silicone with this method.

    • Pinch and twist one of the flat surfaces. If you see any white then there are fillers in the product and it should not be used with food. Instead, you could use that product to store crayons, jewelry, or other objects that will not be consumed as food or medicine.

Summary

Silicone is generally considered safe for food storage but it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Buy only food or medical grade silicone and do not send it to landfills at the end of its life.

In my opinion, the benefits of silicone, as a replacement for using plastic wrap and plastic bags for food storage, are greater than the possible risks of using silicone. Disposable plastic in landfill poses a much greater risk to our health then silicone. See my video from  August 28, 2020,

that describes the risks around disposable plastic in landfills and the very low recycling rate.

Check out the previous blog post that describes the risks of plastic in the environment, Why You Should Get Plastic Out of the Kitchen with 5 Tips.

Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.

Join my monthly newsletter to get new posts in your mailbox and access to the recipe cards and tip sheets.

Comments are welcome. I would love to know what you think.


 

What You Need To Freeze Foods

Frozen cherries

This is part of a series on How to Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

Tips on what you need to freeze food and prevent freezer burn.

Revised  July 30, 2020 – Originally published May 23, 2020 Deborah Esplin

Frozen cherries
Frozen cherry ice cubes.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my Affiliate Disclosure in the legal page link in the footer for further information. If not otherwise stated, all prices are intended in Canadian$.

What You Will Need  /  Freezer

Freezers come in two types: chest and upright. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

Chest freezers are less expensive, more energy-efficient, generally stay colder throughout the entire space, offer more space per cubic foot of storage, are easier for storing bulky items, and keep food frozen longer in a power failure. Plus foods in a chest freezer are less prone to freezer burn.

However, chest freezers are harder to keep organized, take a bit more space on the floor, and may need to be defrosted from time to time. I’ve had my chest freezer for 11 years and for the last nine years it has been at our present home and I have not needed to defrost it.

Upright freezers look like your refrigerator. They have a big door, shelves and you can see everything inside so they are easier to keep organized than a chest freezer. They also do not require defrosting and they have a small footprint on the floor.

However, upright freezers are more expensive than chest freezers to buy, tend to have warmer and colder zones so they do not keep your food as consistently cold as a chest freezer. Plus, they warm up faster in a power failure and use more electricity for the automatic defrost mechanism. The auto defrost mechanism also promotes more freezer burn.

Whichever, type you choose, they are both reliable appliances that last for years and are one of the most useful things you can buy. With a freezer, you can store all of the food that you bought on sale or in a larger format and all of the meals you cook so that you save money, cut your food waste, and have what you need on hand. If you have read the previous blogs or have seen the videos on YouTube, you will have purchased more food as part of the shopping strategy in the blog post, How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill. If you read the other two blogs you will know what foods do not freeze well and the many foods that you can freeze. All of these tips will help you save money on your groceries and cut your food waste.

What You Will Need / Food Containers

Reusable storage containers, BPA-free, do cost a little money, but they are safe, airtight, washable, and last for years. This set from Rubbermaid is easy-to-use, easy-to-wash, and stackable. They are not the least expensive, but you get a set of 21 containers and I love them.

Check out this blog post to understand why PBA-free matters.

I also like the storage containers that have the lids that snap down on four sides as they are completely leak-proof. You can buy them made out of glass or plastic. Either one is good. Here is an example of glass leak-proof containers available from Amazon.

Glass containers are a little pricier than plastic ones. Plastic containers, BPA-free, are just as safe. They come in several types. Both the ones with the lock lids and the push-down lids can be good at keeping liquids from leaking. The containers with the screw-on lids are fine too, but they are not always 100% leak-proof, however, they are usually the least expensive and are fine for most foods.

You can also use clean, dry metal coffee cans. They are a temporary substitute for purchased, reusable containers as long as they are not rusty. Unfortunately, the plastic lids do not last that long, at which point the container is useless for food. However, while you build up your inventory of storage containers they will do.

Do not reuse single-use food containers, like the yogurt and margarine tubs from the store. These containers are not meant to be reused. The plastic has not been created to withstand multiple uses, washing, heating, and cooling. The plastic breaks down over time allowing chemicals to leak into your food.

What You Will Need / Disposable Plastic Options

You can also use disposable plastic bags and plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is generally not enough to protect your food from freezer burn unless it is very thick. Most plastic wrap you find in your grocery store is not thick enough to be used alone to wrap your food for the freezer. However, plastic wrap with a ziplock bag is enough. By putting the food in the plastic wrap first, you keep the ziplock bag clean so that you can reuse it.

What You Will Need / Reusable Food Storage Bags

There is a newcomer to the ziplock bag arena; silicone food storage bags. They are reusable, washable in the dishwasher, freezable, safe for food, and have a long life-span. You can also put these bags in the microwave oven, regular oven, toaster oven, and steamer. These bags will cut or stop your use of disposable plastic bags. However, they do cost more money than a roll of plastic wrap, but over the long-run, they will save you money and cut the amount of plastic that goes to landfill. I have just bought my first set and so far, I am impressed. The top plastic bar that closes the bag can be a bit hard to pull off when the bag is cold, but they go in the dishwasher and really keep food fresh. Here is a link to one of the options on Amazon for silicone food storage bags.

Another tip for cutting plastic is to reuse disposable plastic bags. If my disposable plastic bags are still clean, I reuse them. Once they are dirty, I use them to clean-up after my dog. I even keep my bread bags to use for cleanup. That is my way of saving money and cutting how much plastic goes to landfill.

Identify Your Packages

Label and date your packages and containers before they go into the freezer. Once they are frozen, it will be very hard to figure out what is inside and after a while, you will not remember.

I have sheets of printer label paper and a marker in my kitchen. I use that to identify all my reusable containers. I use the marker to write directly on disposable plastic. My research shows that you can also write on the silicone bags and wipe it off after. Make your life easier in the long run and put the name of the food, the year and the month on the containers/packages before you freeze them.

What You Need To Freeze Food Tips Summary

    1. Choose the freezer that is best for you.
    2. Invest in reusable, washable containers that will cut your use of disposable plastic.
    3. If you use metal cans and tins, make sure they do not have rust.
    4. Invest in silicone bags that will cut your use of disposable plastic.
    5. Wrap your food well or put it into an airtight container to reduce freezer burn and food waste.
    6. Label and date everything before it goes in the freezer.

Check out my video on this topic:

Here is the link to the next blog post in the series: How Long Can You Store Frozen Food.

Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.

Join my monthly newsletter to get new posts in your mailbox and access to the recipe cards and tip sheets.

Comments are welcome. I would love to know what you think.