The New York Times ran a story on Saturday on budget-conscious food safety tips—inspired, of course, by the ongoing egg scare. I agree with most of the suggestions, such as washing produce thoroughly and not keeping leftovers for too long—something I’m prone to doing, because it’s just so hard to throw out chicken curry!—but the article focused entirely on microbial risks, ignoring a handful of potentially dangerous chemical exposures that can lurk in the kitchen. Here are five suggestions of my own—things I have recently adopted in my home—that I believe help minimize these environmental health risks.
1. Don’t store (and especially heat!) food in plastic containers with a 3 or 7 on the bottom, as these can contain chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). (I wrote about the risks associated with the latter in a previous post.)
2. Avoid buying canned food products, because the lining contains BPA, and it leaches into the contents.
3. Ventilate the kitchen when you’re cooking by turning on fans and/or opening windows, especially if you have a gas stove, which releases fumes like carbon monoxide.
4. Let’s face it, organic produce is expensive, so only go organic when you have to by consulting the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen. Remove pesticides from non-organic produce by first spraying the produce with vinegar and then rinsing it thoroughly with water.
5. Avoid using harsh cleaners in the kitchen; opt for choices that have been deemed safe by the Good Guide, a database started by Dara O’Rourke, an associate professor of environmental and labor policy at UC-Berkeley, which ranks products according to their health, environmental and social impacts.