Is Old Tupperware Safe for Food Storage?


Set of Empty tupperware, containers for food on wooden table

Tupperware is one of the most popular manufacturers of food storage containers. It has been around for a while now, and a lot of people have been using Tupperware for years on end.

Some people have 10, 20, even 30-year-old Tupperware that they still use today.

Using a simple and relatively cheap product like this for so long is impressive, but there may be a little problem here.

Is old Tupperware safe for food storage? Old Tupperware produced and sold before 2010 may contain BPA and other harmful chemicals; thus, old Tupperware may be considered unsafe for food storage. Today the majority of Tupperware products are made of plastics with numbers #4 and #5, which are considered safe. However, the ones with number #7 may be unsafe.

While I was doing my research on the topic, I stumbled upon a lot of interesting data, information, and details.

If you are interested in finding out more and learning what you need to do with your old Tupperware, read on.

How Safe Is Old Tupperware?

We all know that plastic has a somewhat negative reputation. It is infamous for its chemical and toxin content that can be leached into our food or water.

So an important question begs to be answered, namely how safe is old Tupperware.

Does Old Tupperware Have BPA?

BPA, also known as Bisphenol A, is a chemical that has been used by manufacturers in the production of polycarbonate plastics ever since the 1960s. BPA is widely considered to be a health hazard. BPA can interact and disrupt the normal functions of the endocrine system.

Due to the potential adverse effects on human health, more and more people are turning away from products that contain BPA.

Tupperware publicly stated that its products sold after March 2010 are free from BPA.

However, there was nothing mentioned about any Tupperware products manufactured before 2010.

So it may be safe to consider that this implies that, maybe not all, but at least some of the Tupperware produced before 2010 do contain BPA.

So if you have Tupperware that was produced before 2010, there is a possibility it contains BPA.

Is Vintage Tupperware Safe?

Empty white tupperware containers for food

However, the problem does not end only with BPA alone.

A lot of the old vintage Tupperware was found to contain multiple toxicants like lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and more.

All of these metals can be very toxic and dangerous to our health. And this can be even more worrying when we consider that many people use these vintage containers in microwaves.

Let us not forget the kids that often enjoy chewing on these plastic containers.

However, you also need to understand what can make these food containers more dangerous; or anything that can result in the increased release of BPA and metals into your food and water.

  • As the plastic ages and gradually wears down, it can start releasing chemicals and toxins. If you haven’t used old Tupperware for a while make sure to wash it thoroughly before use;
  • Excessive heat (especially while microwaving food, or storing hot food) can lead to toxic chemicals leaching into the food; and
  • Highly acidic foods can also react with the metals and chemicals in the plastic, which can lead to them leaching into your food.

What Kind of Plastic Is Used for Old Tupperware?

Not all plastic is created equal. Some plastics are better and considered safer than the rest.

Plastics are marked with numbers (#1 through #7). Each number represents a different kind of plastic.

The type of plastics that are considered safe for storing food are numbers #2, #4, and #5. The majority of Tupperware today is created from numbers #4 and #5.

But some contain number #7, which has been found to leach harmful chemicals into the food, and I will get more in-depth later in this article.

Other plastics (numbers #1, #3, #6) should also be avoided as they can be dangerous.

The resin identification codes were introduced back in 1988, so they might be found on products manufactured after that year.

Older Tupperware produced before that year will not have such marking, and it is hard to say how safe is the plastic. However, as we have seen, it contains different metals in varying quantities, and it is highly likely that it contains BPA as well.

Is There Fake Tupperware, and Is It Safe?

Any brand that people enjoy buying from and has built a reputation for itself sooner or later will be copied. Imitations and fake products mimicking the real ones will find their place on the market.

So is the case with Tupperware food containers.

There are fake Tupperware. These imitation products are not upheld to the same quality standards and are often manufactured using cheaper materials. There is also no guarantee that these fake food containers do not contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals.

If you are buying a new Tupperware, make sure to go for a genuine product.

  • Genuine Tupperware products are not sold in supermarkets, grocery stores, or hardware stores.
  • Look for the Tupperware logo and code numbers. They should be found on both the container and the lid;
  • Look for the extra letters or numbers. These represent what kind of lid the container takes. Letters are used for the round lids and numbers for the rectangular lids.

What Makes Your Old Tupperware Unsafe?

White tupperwares containing pieces of peach and apple inside

Even for the best food containers comes the time, no matter how long they have served us, to be replaced.

This holds true even for your old trusty Tupperware.

But when exactly is the right time to do it?

Luckily there are a few tell-tale signs that your old Tupperware should be replaced with a new one.

1. If It Was Produced Before 2010

As you already know, the plastic Tupperware food containers that were sold before 2010 may contain BPA.

Today Tupperware products are BPA-free, but we cannot be so sure about the older ones.

So if you are still using your old Tupperware, you may have to replace it if BPA is a concern to you.

2. If It Has Been Damaged in Any Way

Maybe you tried cutting the food in the plastic container with a knife. Or perhaps the fork scratched the bottom of the container. Or even part of the container is melted because it was too close to the stovetop.

The food container may seem okay, but this can result in plastic chemicals leaching into your food, and you are even risking ingesting plastic particles.

On another note, food and dirt can get stuck inside the tiny crevices and cracks. This can lead to bacteria and even mold accumulating and thriving in there if not cleaned properly.

In any case, if the food container has been damaged in any significant way or the plastic is cracking or peeling, this is making it very unsafe and should not be used.

3. If It Is Stained or Smelly

Every plastic container, no matter how good, can stain or start to smell with time.

Certain foods (especially acidic ones) can definitely do a number on your plastic container, which can make it unusable.

Plastic is a porous material, which means that the food or liquids stored in plastic containers can get in the plastic, especially when the plastic is heated.

This leads to foods and odors getting trapped in. Frequently it is almost impossible to clean certain plastic food containers. This is not safe, and these containers should be replaced or repurposed.

4. If It Has Been Made From Unsafe Plastics

So far, you have learned that Tupperware is made from different plastics (usually #4, #5, and #7).

And here’s the thing.

While #4 and #5 are considered safe, number #7 is a somewhat questionable and very vague controversial category. While all other plastics are categorized by names (#4 is LDPE or low-density polyethylene, and #5 is PP or polypropylene), number #7 is categorized as “Others”.

So if the type of plastic does not fall in one of the other six categories, it is a number #7.

Which can make things very tricky.

Not all number #7 plastics are created equal. Here are some of the most common plastics that fall into that category.

  • Polycarbonate (PC) – A not recyclable plastic which contains BPA;
  • Tritan – Plastic that falls in sort of a gray area. The opinions about its safety are mixed.
  • Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) – This is a whole group of plastics. Not all are considered safe and BPA or phthalate-free.
  • Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) – This is a biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources. Considered to be BPA and phthalate-free;
  • Acrylonitrile styrene (AS or SAN) – It should be BPA and phthalate-free;
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – It is usually BPA and phthalate-free, and it is also recyclable;

I don’t want to turn this into a chemistry lesson, but the thing is that not all of these are safe. And when we have no way of knowing what kind of plastic we are dealing with, how can we make the right call?

Safety dictates that a number #7 plastic is most likely not going to be BPA-safe.

And I prefer to err on the side of caution.

What to Do With Old Tupperware?

dirty tupperware and fork empty unclean

If you have decided you want to get newer Tupperware containers, you might have wondered about what the best thing to do with your old Tupperware would be.

1. Where to Throw out Old Tupperware?

I really do not want to encourage the disposable mentality, but throwing out your old Tupperware that cannot fulfill its purpose or you just feel is unsafe is something that you can do.

Before doing anything with your Tupperware, check the labeling on the container to see if it is recyclable.

The old Tupperware food containers are made from plastics that may or may not be recyclable, so make sure to check with your local authorities.

Throwing it out on in the landfill should, ideally, be done as a last resort. Plastic takes a long time to break down, and even then, the small plastic particles do not go away, contaminating the soil and water.

2. Can You Exchange or Replace Old Tupperware?

One of the things that makes Tupperware the go-to brand is their Limited Lifetime Warranty.

According to their website:

“Tupperware® brand products are warranted by Tupperware against chipping, cracking, breaking, or peeling under normal non-commercial use for the lifetime of the product.” 

Yeah. We are talking for the whole lifetime of the food container. Even if your container starts warping after 10 or 20 years, you can simply get in touch with the company and have it replaced.

The caveat here is that if they no longer produce that very same product, they will send you the closest comparable one.

However, the warranty does not cover any staining, melting, cuts, or scratches caused by normal use or by sharp objects and cutlery.

Also, older Tupperware (produced before September 1979) was not dishwasher-safe, and the warranty does not cover any damages on the said food containers caused by dishwashers.

3. Can You Sell Old Tupperware?

Selling your old Tupperware might be the last thing that will come to your mind, but hear me out.

Old, vintage Tupperware has been very popular on platforms like eBay and Etsy.

Maybe it is due to nostalgic reasons, but the old vintage containers have been selling for more money than you might imagine.

One thing is sure they are selling for way more than their original price (typically about $2). Today they sell for anywhere between $4 to $20 and even more.

4. Can You Repurpose Old Tupperware?

Even when your old and trusty Tupperware cannot be used for food storage, it can be repurposed in so many different ways.

That way, instead of finding itself tossed out in the landfill, it will continue providing value.

This is especially good if you want to go zero waste.

Here are a few examples.

Keep anything, and everything you like that is not food. You can keep all kinds of bits and bobs, tools, accessories that can be found in your bathroom, garage, pantry, and so much more.

Conversely, you can also keep packaged food in it.

Resources I Used:

  • https://ca.news.yahoo.com/old-tupperware-may-worth-lot-211100478.html
  • https://tamararubin.com/2019/03/vintage-tupperware-green-bowl-2780-ppm-lead-234-ppm-arsenic-both-metals-are-poisonous-to-humans/
  • https://tamararubin.com/2019/12/stop-using-your-vintage-tupperware-now-these-measuring-cups-are-positive-for-2103-ppm-lead-250-ppm-arsenic/
  • http://www.pickles-and-spices.com/genuine-tupperware.html
  • https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/is-tupperware-bpa-free/
  • https://www.tupperware.com/about-bpa/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221205.php
  • https://www.popsci.com/earthtalk/article/2008-08/how-safe-tupperware/
  • https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/bisphenol-bpa-use-food-contact-application
  • https://www.thekitchn.com/5-signs-its-time-to-replace-your-plastic-storage-containers-247059
  • https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2018/07/Plastics-by-polymer-type-01.png
  • http://order.tupperware.com/coe-pdf/tupp_2010_materials.pdf
  • https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-plastic-food-containers-look-stained-even-though-they-have-been-cleaned-thoroughly
  • https://careandvalue.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/how-safe-is-tupperware-and-other-plastic-containers/
  • https://www.hellonaturalliving.com/are-any-of-the-7-plastics-safe/
  • https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/what-should-you-do-with-old-plastic-when-youre-plastic-free-zero-waste
  • https://www.tupperware.com/warranty/
  • https://www.frugalconfessions.com/consumerism/tupperware-replacement-lifetime-warranty/

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