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Food Safety Focus (20th Issue, March 2008) – Food Incident Highlight

Disposable Food Containers and Their Safety

Concerns over safety of disposable food containers have re-emerged from time to time.

Disposable containers are commonly used in local food establishments. They are often made with polypropylene (PP), expanded polystyrene (EPS, commonly known as poly-foam), polystyrene (PS) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Among them, PP can withstand temperature ranging from 100oC to 120oC for long periods, whereas the other three types of plastics are not suitable for keeping food at temperature over 100oC.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department conducted a joint study with the Consumer Council on the safety of disposable containers in 2005. The results showed that plastic disposable food containers provided by local food establishments, retailers and school lunch box suppliers, if properly used, would unlikely cause food safety problems. The study recommended that the food trade should identify the specific requirements, e.g., temperature and acidity of the food concerned, and purchase containers that meet such requirements.

In order to help the food trade to choose the appropriate disposable containers, detailed guidelines on the use of disposable plastic containers are available at the CFS website.

llustration: Examples of disposable plastic food containers