Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microwaving Your Instant Lunch: The Styrofoam Question




I wrote the following at another blog and received quite a few hits based on people searching for info about the safety of microwaving the Styrofoam cups that those instant noodles come in.


I had been to Walmart and bought some Maruchan Instant Lunches. I haven't really eaten those for a long time, but when I saw them on sale for .25 each I decided to try some of the chicken flavored ones. My first introduction to the food was actually rival brand Cup Noodles (I remember the name as Cup O Noodles at one time) and I've always liked them as a quick meal, maybe with some toast. I had a friend I worked with years ago who kept a large supply of Cup Noodles in his office, and he would eat one whenever he got hungry, which was often. He would fill one of the packages with water and microwave it.

Well, I decided I would have one. I read the package directions on the Instant Lunch and it instructed to heat the water on the stove and pour it into the cup or to heat water in the microwave and then pour into the cup. It did not say to microwave the Styrofoam cup in the microwave with the water already in it. Well, that's how I always saw people in offices and workplaces do it, but I followed directions and since I did not want to go to the trouble of waiting for water to boil on the stove, I just grabbed my glass mug and filled it with water. I drink a lot of tea and most of the time just fill my glass and heat in the microwave. I find the "beverage" setting gets the water hot enough for me, but not that hot. Thinking it would need to be hotter for the Instant Lunch, I set the microwave for 3 minutes on high. The mug was very hot when I pulled it out and I poured the water into the noodles and waited with anticipation. Then I thought I'd have some tea as well and got my cup and without thinking about it filled it with room temperature water. I instantly heard a noise, a little crackle and pop. I noticed immediately that my cup had two cracks on either side all the way to the brim, splitting it in two. The glass held though. But only for a few moments. The front half fell away and I didn't have a chance to catch it as it dropped to the floor, water spilling everywhere. I thought, oh no, I'll have to sweep up little bits of broken glass. But the part that hit the tiled floor didn't shatter. It just bounced and stayed intact. The glass (which I also got from Walmart) is very thick and appears quite strong. But it had been too hot when I'd put the cooler water in it, so while it could survive a fall to the floor without breaking, water did it in. If the timing and circumstances are right, anything is possible and even the strong are vulnerable.


You never know how someone is going to end up at one of your pages after doing a google search. I had someone end up at my story Bicycle Rocket Man after searching for How to Put Rockets on a Bicycle. Needless to say, my short piece offered nothing remotely helpful in that regard. Now, I don't know much about adding rockets to bikes, but I do feel slightly more competent to comment on the matter of using a microwave oven to heat precooked noodles, so here goes.

The question of the safety of microwaving Styrofoam is the main concern of those asking the question. Styrofoam is a trademarked name of Dow Chemical, but the word is often used generically to refer to any item made of polystyrene foam, a type of plastic. As long as it doesn't melt, it would appear to be safe to microwave it, contrary to the belief of many that you never should. Basically if the label says you can microwave it, then go ahead. All containers that come into contact with food are tested by the FDA for safety, making sure that unsafe amounts of harmful substances don't leak into food. Separate tests are done to insure the safety of microwave containers. My Cup Noodles container says on the lid: Due to variance in microwave heating power, it is best to boil water in a separate container in microwave. You'll notice, however, that it doesn't say you can't microwave the container directly. Again, as long as the cup doesn't melt, it should be perfectly safe to microwave. Most people who eat these noodle cups seem to just put the water in and microwave with no problem. If it is still a concern, then just boil water in a separate container and add it that way. Or, stop buying noodles in foam cups.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do some research on adding rockets to bicycles.

14 comments:

  1. You need to ask yourself, are the companies making the product out to help you or make money?

    By the way, who does the FDA work for?

    http://pharmagossip.blogspot.com/2009/02/fda-leadership-have-lined-their-pockets.html


    Can you say Corrupted?

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    Replies
    1. Wow, i've never read anything so in-depth about ramen. Sorry about your glass mug. Porcelain is how i roll.

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  2. We buy those things occasionally. The kids love them for lunch or snacks. Personally, I heat the water separately (usually in the nuclear thing) but my kids, even though I have mentioned the issue to them, still just put the water in and nuke the Styrofoam bowls. I think that in order to burn up the bowl you have to way overcook the noodles so to make them taste half decent you will probably be safe. Though, I am no expert.

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  3. I wanted to know if it is safe to microwave styrofoam. I've closed four other sites that said "Don't worry! The FDA has your back!" I don't think so buddy. I'm with anonymous on this one. The FDA is so unbelievably corrupt.

    Because someone said so isn't really the answer I was looking to find.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The L.R.H. near my house reheats food for there guests in styrofoam containers with plastic lids. When i mentioned it to fellow employees and management about the dangers all i got was " i'm not eating it". i made suggestions to change it but was ignored, soon after i resigned my position shortly after!shelby twnshp! my friends and family have not returned to dine. i only know about the one in particular!

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  4. Because someone said so isn't really the answer I was looking to find.

    Then you were only looking for one answer, i.e. IT IS NOT SAFE. So why bother? IMO it IS safe to microwave Styrofoam as long as you are careful. But whatever, don't do it if it worries you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Anon
    Its fine if you think is FDA is corrupt but dont think that the RESEARCH they put out is invalid just because of that. The FDA tests these things. The science that the FDA is doing points to the safety of microwaving Styrofoam and im sure that science is made public. If you have a problem with the design of the experiment thats fine but you cant dispute actual data. The FDA can't make that up.

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  6. Here is what is on the bottom of Maruchan cup. Notice the recycle logo with a "6" inside it. Also under the logo is a PS or P6.

    Type 6 - polystyrene, styrene, polystyrene foam
    Not heat stable. Do not use in microwave. Do not microwave food in a styrofoam [1] container! In addition to not being heat stable, polystyrene is a potential human carcinogen and usually contains bisphenol A (BPA).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Do not microwave food in a styrofoam container! In addition to not being heat stable, polystyrene is a potential human carcinogen and usually contains bisphenol A (BPA).

    It is also interesting that you can put heated hot water into the styrofoam cupped noodle as the maruchan suggestion in their label.

    ---THe best safe way is to microwave the way in a separate safe container. It cause inconvenience but may be just worth it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anon has contradicted herself/himself by saying that, "Because someone said so isn't really the answer I was looking to find." You were ready to accept the answer given to you by an individual purely because she/he "said so." What makes the contributor any less reasonable?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ive been microwaving those cup of noodle things since i was like 6 or 7, im now 20 and im doing just fine. Only reason i read this blog is cuz i just noticed that the noodles say "do not microwave" and i wanted to kno why. And im still gonna microwave my noodles, call me a risk taker

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  10. Happy cancer to all =)

    ReplyDelete
  11. People (who never eat or microwave Maruchan noodles) get cancer everyday! No one knows how/if they're going to get cancer (or when).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Something to add,but is kind of random,is that cups with "foam"around them will burn the noodles,if no water is inside while microwaving(not melting the cup)

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