BPA-Free Food Storage

I’ve gotten several questions as to which food storage containers are BPA-free.  While I’ve been answering these by email, I thought that it’s probably information that others are interested in, too, and thus worthy of a post.

The good news is that most brand-name, new food storage containers sold in the US are now BPA-free.  The key words in that previous sentence are “brand-name” and “new.”  Most “generic” or store brands don’t state whether or not they’re BPA-free.  And unless they’re marked, it’s impossible to tell with used items sold at Salvation Army, Goodwill and other resale shops — virtually all brands contained BPA at one time or another and there is just no way of telling whether something was made before or after a company went BPA-free.

The primary reason that BPA was used in food storage products was to provide stain resistance in soft (not brittle) plastic.  Therefore, a “seat of the pants” test for items that you already own is that if they stain easily, they’re probably BPA-free (no guarantees, though).

Here are the links to company websites and their statements regarding BPA, along with links to find the products on Amazon.

Sterilite — “all Sterilite food storage and kitchen items are BPA-free and phthalate-free.” (Sterilite website)

I really like the Sterilite locking containers (they call them Ultra-Seal), although they don’t fit together as closely as the Lock & Lock containers.  Not all of their products actually lock on all four sides, however — and those that don’t can leak in rough conditions.  See Sterilite containers on Amazon.

Lock & Lock — does not have a corporate web site that I can find, but their products on Amazon are listed as BPA-free and many contain statements such as “these are all BPA free” in the product description (see an example).

All the Lock & Lock products I’ve purchased have been great and I’ve never had one break.  However, I’ve gotten an few comments (and I do mean a few, maybe two or three) recently from readers who have had a locking tab break off.  I don’t know how widespread the problem might be — reviews on Amazon are still quite good overall, but again I see a few comments about breakage.  At this point, I’d still buy Lock & Lock (the last ones I purchased were about 6 months ago).  See all Lock & Lock food storage containers on Amazon.

Rubbermaid –“No currently manufactured products contain BPA” — Rubbermaid website; also contains a link to show what older products do contain BPA, so you can check items you already have.

Rubbermaid makes all sorts of food storage products.  I find that their “Lock-It” line works well, with silicone seals and latching locks.  Their other lines are not bad, but can jostle open with the movement of a boat, even in protected waters.  See all Rubbermaid Lock-It containers on Amazon.

Tupperware — “As of March 2010, items sold by Tupperware US & CA are BPA free.”  (Tupperware website)

Tupperware is another company that makes all sorts of food storage products, some suitable for use on a boat; some not.  I’ve written about the Modular Mates (note that these are not locking) and the salt and pepper shakers.

Water Bottles — my favorite Nalgene water bottles are BPA-free.  Read why I like these and find them on Amazon.

Yeah, I know, water bottles aren’t really “food storage containers.”  But if you’re concerned about BPA in food storage containers, you probably want to know about water bottles, too.

Why Worry About BPA?

BPA is one of those substances where there’s a difference of opinion as to how harmful it is.  My position is “why risk it?”  This seems to be what a lot of companies are thinking too, as they’re removing BPA from their products.

According to the Mayo Clinic web site:

Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.

However, the US FDA has not banned the use of BPA — it’s purely voluntary on the part of these companies.

If you have older containers that you suspect may contain BPA but don’t want to get rid of them, you can limit the potential for BPA to leach into food by not heating food in the container (say by putting it into the microwave) and not putting hot food into the container (wait until the food has cooled).  (From the same Mayo Clinic web page)

Okay, I don’t want to get into a big discussion about whether you need to totally avoid BPA — I’m not a scientist.  I’m simply writing this to help those who want to avoid BPA know which food storage containers are BPA-free.

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  • Elaine Gustafson
    Posted at 19 July 2013 Reply

    Thank you for posting this information—very helpful!

  • Debbie Wasserman
    Posted at 19 July 2013 Reply

    Carolyn, I use the disposable Ziploc containers for leftovers on the boat and at home. They can be washed and reused about a million times. I just checked on Amazon and they are BPA free. I still use the locking types for storage of crackers, cereal, rice, etc. The Ziplocs are cheap and stack and store in very little room. They close well and I’ve never had one open or leak on the boat.

  • Susanne Oldham
    Posted at 17 May 2016 Reply

    I just bought lock and lock style Pyrex containers, they are perfect because you can take them out of the fridge and put them directly into a hot oven and then back into the fridge. . My alternative is Ziploc, flexible and safe.

  • Patty Rademacher
    Posted at 17 May 2016 Reply

    Thank you so much for this information. We just bought a new boat that we hope to live on for the summer, and I have been searching for bpa free products. (storing and serving) I have always enjoyed your site, and will be going back to previous postings for more help.

    Thanks again,
    Patty Rad

  • charlie Jones
    Posted at 17 May 2016 Reply

    Had a locking tab break off a Lock and Lock just the other day. The container had been in constant use at my house for around 4 years- I keep salad in it. It broke when I dropped it on the floor.

    Otherwise, never had a problem. I ONLY containers I use aboard

  • Karin
    Posted at 17 May 2016 Reply

    Perhaps we all need to do some more research , I was appalled when I read statements like this……..from Prevention magazine and many other sources on the internet…….I am thinking BIG PLASTIC is trying to pull the plastic over our eyes………..

    “The problem with BPA replacements
    In order to keep our plastics plastic, all that BPA had to be replaced, and the other chemicals aren’t much different: Their effects on health remain unclear at best—and scary at worst, according to research released earlier this month in Toxicological Sciences. BPA’s replacements, related compounds like bisphenol-S (BPS) or bisphenol-F (BPF), actually appear to have similar—and sometimes even worse—endocrine-disrupting effects. “The chemicals have the same function [as BPA], which usually means they’re similar in structure, and therefore have similar health effects,” says Lindsay Dahl, deputy director of the organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “

  • sally rouse
    Posted at 14 June 2017 Reply

    what about glass locking containers, I have those, would have to buy plastic???

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 14 June 2017 Reply

      I try to have as little glass on the boat as possible to avoid breakage. If you use them, pad them well in the lockers to keep them from hitting together and cracking. You’ll be surprised at how much things jostle around in the boat!

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