I’m always talking about silicone ice pop molds here but some people question their safety. So, I figured we’d look at the safety of silicone both in general and in relation to plastic popsicle molds.
Is food grade silicone safe?
Honestly, the jury is still out on this one. Manufacturers swear on stacks of bibles that silicone is safe and WAY safer than plastic (but they would). The Food and Drug Administration claims silicone is perfectly safe, but of course the FDA wants BPA in your food too and they’re all caught up in their long-term love affair with the chemical industry, so do I trust their judgment call – um, no.
The mostly good:
Most folks seem to think silicone is fairly safe. A blogger pal of mine found an individual who stated food grade silicone is safe because it doesn’t result in the same crystalline silica dust exposure as other types of silicone. Healthy Stuff lists silicone products as low-concern products when it comes to chemicals, and they’re fairly diligent.
Health Canada is on board with silicone, although they state that you shouldn’t use silicone cookware at temperatures above 220°C (428°F) as it will melt if exposed to high temperatures. Also on a high note, few issues, if any have been reported by consumers when it comes to silicone. Of course, who knows if someone could tell if there was a problem.
The puzzling bad:
Like most things in America, silicone apparently has been marketed and sold first, researched later. There are almost no studies available that remark on silicone’s safety or lack there of. A few studies have shown that silicone food products may release small amounts of chemicals especially when you cook with them on especially high temperatures or when they come into contact with higer-fat foods. Other research notes that just like silicone breast implants, tiny bits of chemicals can leech out from the silicone in say an ice pop mold, over time, building up in our bodies.
Other research shows that not all silicone is the same. Some silicone products use fillers. Additionally, consider that silicone was approved for use in food in 1979, yet the FDA hasn’t conducted any follow-up studies since then to determine whether silicone can leach out of cookware and potentially contaminate food.
SafeBaby notes, and I agree, that while there’s nothing to say food grade silicone is explicitly dangerous, there’s also nothing much saying it’s perfectly safe either.
Is silicone safer than plastic?
In terms of what we know, I’d guess yes. But that’s only because we do know that plastics leech chemicals if heated, if washed and sometimes if they’re just sitting around doing nothing in the sun. Studies done on silicone show a much higher heat threshold than plastics and plastics breakdown much quicker. Again though, we know very little about silicone.
If the verdict is still out, how come you use silicone?
It’s true, silicone hasn’t been proven totally safe. Yet, I’ll use silicone products, and I’ll recommend silicone products to other people. Why on earth would I do that if no one has said, “Silicone is totally safe!” Below is why.
Because I need ice pop molds: We make a ton of ice pops around here. Glass molds have broken on me (not safe), all-plastic molds have more chemicals for sure and doesn’t last nearly as long as silicone and the stainless steel molds on the market don’t have handles (making them more disposable) and are extremely expensive for most families in my opinion.
Because I hate disposables when there’s an alternative: I don’t love the idea of cooking with silicone, since it may leech when heated. However, I also hate the idea of throwing away a million paper muffin cups. We make a ton of muffins and silicone muffin cups offer a decent way to do so, without all the paper mess or the headache of muffins sticking to a non-lined stainless steel muffin pan.
Because I limit my use: I actually don’t own much silicone. I have ice pop molds made with BPA-free plastic and silicone, muffin cups and a few silicone utensils. I limit my use because I’m not sure about this stuff. We use greased, or chlorine-free parchment lined pans for most baked goods and have a stainless steel colander and such. Basically, we don’t use silicone for everything, and you probably shouldn’t either.
If silicone and plastic may not be safe, anyway, why not just buy cheaper all-plastic ice pop molds?
Ice pop molds made with silicone handles usually cost more than 100% plastic ice pop molds. However, if neither is safe, how come I go with silicone vs. plastic? As I noted above, plastic has been proven to leech many harmful chemicals, which as of yet, silicone has not. Cheaper plastic molds I’ve had in my life, don’t last as long as higher quality molds and crack easily, plus get stained, which silicone molds don’t. Additionally, when I’ve been somewhere with plastic molds, ice pops stick to them more often than silicone. I’m not sure why, but when it comes to ease of use, silicone handles just seem to work way better.
I’m not a fan of plastic. We have almost no plastic kitchenware at my house. That said, store bought pops contain tons of junk you don’t want, like fake flavors and colors, plus so much sugar. Store bought pops also create an insane amount of trash and are very likely manufactured around plastic anyhow.
So, given a choice, it’s my opinion that homemade ice pops made in plastic molds are WAY more eco-friendly than store-bought. Plus, why panic over ice pop molds? You have better things to do with your time.
To sum up:
The world we live in is kind of lame. People sell silicone with very little research to back up it’s safety and for some reason, no one seems to be questioning this. In some ways silicone is great for sure because it’s long-lasting and less disposable, but in other ways, I’d be leery because you don’t know if it’s safe or not.
What I’d do is limit your silicone use, and especially limit cooking on high heat in silicone. Cookware is much more likely to leech than molds you stick in a freezer. If you’re super concerned, wash your silicone items by hand, as the high heat of dishwashers has been known to allow plastics to leech.
What do you think? Do you use silicone? Do you think it’s safe? Let me know in the comments.
Images © Jennifer Chait