Safety

“Is This Safe to Use in the Microwave?”—Food Container Symbols 101

Can you safely use plastics in the microwave, dishwasher or freezer? The answer can often be found on the container itself.

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Make sure a plastic product is microwaveable, dishwasher friendly or freezable by checking the label or the container itself, which will often display a version of one or more symbols.

Plastic products designed to store and reheat food are rigorously evaluated to ensure:

For example, many plastic wraps, packages and containers are specially designed to withstand microwave temperatures. In fact, they’re tested at exaggeratedly high temperatures to ensure they remain stable during and after microwave use. The same is true for products that are made to be frozen or run through the dishwasher.

Consumers can make sure a plastic product is microwaveable, dishwasher friendly or freezable by checking the label or the container itself, which will often display a version of one or more of the following symbols:

While these symbols are widely used, they aren’t standardized. That means they can come in different shapes, sizes and designs, with a few shared characteristics.

For instance:

All four of these symbols indicate that a product is safe to use in the microwave.

And different containers have different symbols, for example:

This plastic container is, from left to right, microwave safe, dishwasher safe (note the unique symbol for dishwasher safe—essentially any symbol that suggests water hitting containers or utensils is meant to indicate safe use in the dishwasher), freezer safe and safe for use in food storage in general.

This plastic container is dishwasher safe (note the text that indicates top rack only), microwave safe and freezer safe.

If you can’t find these symbols or have more questions, try finding the specific product information online or calling the manufacturer.

It’s important to remember that containers designed for food contact are tested to make sure they’re safe, even when used in a way that you’re unlikely to replicate in your kitchen. When used correctly, plastic containers like the ones above can help consumers keep leftovers fresher for longer and combat food waste at home.

There’s more—learn how plastic packaging is helping people make food safer and more accessible to all, and put your knowledge to the test.

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