17

votes

Is sous-vide safe?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 05, 2010 at 4:53 PM

Keith Norris makes a great point about sous-vide I have been wondering about for some time:

In particular, check out the discussion associated with Episode 17, where I tossed-out the sous-vide/plastics leaching question that I initially brought up in this post. Paleolithic Solution reader/listener Mathieu Lalonde responded:

???I???m a chemist and I was waiting for someone to bring up this issue. I was personally horrified when I first read about ???Sous Vide???, which means ???under vacuum??? in French. Take food, place it into a plastic bag, place the bag under vacuum, seal it, then heat it. I cannot imagine a better way to leach plasticizers into food. Especially with fatty foods. I would love to see someone study this. The phthalates would be trivial to detect by mass spec. Many plasticizers, including phthalates, are endocrine disrupters. I don???t care how good ???sous vide??? food tastes, I???m not touching it until the plasticizer issue has been studied and/or resolved.???

I have to agree with Mathieu, here. This just looks like too much of a plastics-leaching, perfect storm for me to feel comfortable with. For now, just roll with the ol??? fashion crock pot, and reserve the right to change my opinion on the subject later.

Bottom line: Is sous-vide safe?

3fe2bf1367970868757ddf7ed7c62531

(817)

on January 11, 2012
at 02:33 PM

good for you! The possible dangers are to risky to me. Plus the pollution making plastic causes.. and the terrible lack of recycling..

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on December 23, 2011
at 04:47 PM

Absence of evidence IS, in fact, evidence of absence. (Not proof, but evidence) http://oyhus.no/AbsenceOfEvidence.html

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on August 22, 2011
at 12:31 PM

I have not bought one because of this issue and with people who have them the amount of lower sex steroids and vitamin D has been rather eye opening to me. Not sure why but matt and I are thinking alike on this

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on August 22, 2011
at 11:08 AM

So Durandal, how do you feel about the precautionary principle? Seems relevant to paleo and novel materials.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 06, 2010
at 01:24 AM

Thanks for the additional info, Durandal. A Sous Vide machine is on my wish list. Jae, rewashing might work. Thanks.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:58 PM

Scott, it's possible to wash and re-use some of those bags. Not that that's a real solution, but it's better than nothing. Durandal, you're right that you can't prove a negative. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Now there's evidence that suggests that #5 plastics (previously thought to be very safe) may leach certain chemicals (although we don't know for sure that this will cause health problems). I'm still not 100% convinced that using my SVS is perfectly safe, but your posts are reassuring me somewhat (for now). Thanks.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:49 PM

Would definitely love to see the link. (I own a SVS and then I started reading more about plastics... sigh.)

60b0d3e60670f645cca59f67710b4820

(399)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:38 PM

It would take very little effort for the people spreading FUD about vacuum-seal bags to send out a request to the manufacturers to ask what, if any, additives are used in LDPE bags. From what I know from my background in polymer engineering, food-grade polyethylene is safe beyond a _reasonable_ doubt.

E7edfa98fd4c90d71f43933bf34822b0

on March 05, 2010
at 07:37 PM

No assertion intended, simply posing a question.

60b0d3e60670f645cca59f67710b4820

(399)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:31 PM

Well you can't prove a negative. I won't get into a lengthy debate on the merits of radical skepticism as a philosophy. I'm tired of paleo bloggers asserting with no evidence that vacuum-seal bags contain endocrine disrupters, etc. Polyethylene is a completely different class of polymer from polycarbonate (the one that contains BPA) -- polyethylene has a low glass transition temperature that means it does not need additives to flow, and the monomer is a low boiling gas that dissipates quickly.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 05, 2010
at 06:03 PM

Why "For the last time..."? I haven't seen this question on Paleo Hacks, yet? Also, citing a federal regulation for "generally recognized as safe in food and food packaging" may not pull a lot of weight with a bunch of people who do not think *grain* should be "generally recognized as safe" as food. The cited page lists a bunch of stuff with limits but that doesn't mean it doesn't leach into food. I think what we need is some research data and not a regulatory finding. Your link *does* allay some of my fear but I still have a problem with throwing away *more* plastic with every meal.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 05, 2010
at 06:01 PM

Why "For the last time..."? I haven't seen this question on Paleo Hacks, yet? Also, citing a federal regulation for "generally recognized as safe in food and food packaging" may not pull a lot of weight with a bunch of people who do not think grain should be "generally recognized as safe" as food. The cited page lists a bunch of stuff with limits but that doesn't mean it doesn't leach into food. I think what we need is some research data and not a regulatory finding.

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14 Answers

13
60b0d3e60670f645cca59f67710b4820

on March 05, 2010
at 05:10 PM

For the last time, polyethylene and polypropylene (LDPE, HDPE, *PE, PP) never contain plasticizers. These are the cheapest commodity polymers and any additive besides the monomer significantly increases the price of the final product, so manufacturers minimize the amount of raw material to remain competitive.

I believe it is useful for people to be skeptical of the safety of polymers, given history, but that should go hand-in-hand with actual investigation. I linked the FDA's regulations not because the agency has any idea what is safe, but because it delimits the chemicals that are allowed in food-grade polyethylene. As in, those chemicals listed are the only things allowed. The only leachable small molecule in that list are silicone lubricants, which have been proven well are inert in the body.

For me, the tasty value sous-vide cooking provides outweighs the known risks and precaution of the unknown.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 05, 2010
at 06:03 PM

Why "For the last time..."? I haven't seen this question on Paleo Hacks, yet? Also, citing a federal regulation for "generally recognized as safe in food and food packaging" may not pull a lot of weight with a bunch of people who do not think *grain* should be "generally recognized as safe" as food. The cited page lists a bunch of stuff with limits but that doesn't mean it doesn't leach into food. I think what we need is some research data and not a regulatory finding. Your link *does* allay some of my fear but I still have a problem with throwing away *more* plastic with every meal.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 06, 2010
at 01:24 AM

Thanks for the additional info, Durandal. A Sous Vide machine is on my wish list. Jae, rewashing might work. Thanks.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:58 PM

Scott, it's possible to wash and re-use some of those bags. Not that that's a real solution, but it's better than nothing. Durandal, you're right that you can't prove a negative. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Now there's evidence that suggests that #5 plastics (previously thought to be very safe) may leach certain chemicals (although we don't know for sure that this will cause health problems). I'm still not 100% convinced that using my SVS is perfectly safe, but your posts are reassuring me somewhat (for now). Thanks.

60b0d3e60670f645cca59f67710b4820

(399)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:38 PM

It would take very little effort for the people spreading FUD about vacuum-seal bags to send out a request to the manufacturers to ask what, if any, additives are used in LDPE bags. From what I know from my background in polymer engineering, food-grade polyethylene is safe beyond a _reasonable_ doubt.

60b0d3e60670f645cca59f67710b4820

(399)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:31 PM

Well you can't prove a negative. I won't get into a lengthy debate on the merits of radical skepticism as a philosophy. I'm tired of paleo bloggers asserting with no evidence that vacuum-seal bags contain endocrine disrupters, etc. Polyethylene is a completely different class of polymer from polycarbonate (the one that contains BPA) -- polyethylene has a low glass transition temperature that means it does not need additives to flow, and the monomer is a low boiling gas that dissipates quickly.

E7edfa98fd4c90d71f43933bf34822b0

on March 05, 2010
at 07:37 PM

No assertion intended, simply posing a question.

5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 05, 2010
at 06:01 PM

Why "For the last time..."? I haven't seen this question on Paleo Hacks, yet? Also, citing a federal regulation for "generally recognized as safe in food and food packaging" may not pull a lot of weight with a bunch of people who do not think grain should be "generally recognized as safe" as food. The cited page lists a bunch of stuff with limits but that doesn't mean it doesn't leach into food. I think what we need is some research data and not a regulatory finding.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on August 22, 2011
at 11:08 AM

So Durandal, how do you feel about the precautionary principle? Seems relevant to paleo and novel materials.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on December 23, 2011
at 04:47 PM

Absence of evidence IS, in fact, evidence of absence. (Not proof, but evidence) http://oyhus.no/AbsenceOfEvidence.html

11
E7edfa98fd4c90d71f43933bf34822b0

on March 05, 2010
at 06:15 PM

And who's to say that plasticizers are the only possibly leached substance with which to be concerned? I remember back in the dark ages, when Teflon was "safe", too.

Keith

5
5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6

on March 05, 2010
at 07:00 PM

The Eades have taken this one on numerous times. It's safe. They went so far as to have a lab analysis done though I can't find a link to this at the moment.

Edit: I can't find anything directly from the Eades at the moment but Richard at Free The Animal takes on the plastic issue in the comments of a couple of his posts:

He also brings up the great point that sous-vide allows foods to be cooked at low temperatures compared to grilling/searing techniques that are known to produce carcinogenic substances.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 05, 2010
at 07:49 PM

Would definitely love to see the link. (I own a SVS and then I started reading more about plastics... sigh.)

4
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on August 12, 2010
at 09:41 PM

Caveat: I lean very hard towards reconstructionism and have not read any of the studies about grilling creating carcinogens. That being said:

I'd think that cooking in plastic wrap is by definition not Paleo, and furthermore, all those stories of carcinogens in grilled meat just reek of Vegan propaganda. We've been cooking meat over open flames for easily thirty times longer than we've been eating grain; I'd think that we're well down the road towards adapation to it.

4
03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on March 05, 2010
at 06:29 PM

Good thread!

I've stopped storing my food in plastic, whenever possible. And definitely never heat anything in plastic. So I'd be hard pressed to buy something that actually cooks my food in plastic!

I'm with Keith on this one.

3fe2bf1367970868757ddf7ed7c62531

(817)

on January 11, 2012
at 02:33 PM

good for you! The possible dangers are to risky to me. Plus the pollution making plastic causes.. and the terrible lack of recycling..

2
Medium avatar

(19479)

on August 22, 2011
at 12:11 PM

The question is whether or not sous-vide is safe and the answer seems to be a definite maybe.

There are many things that have been (and still are) considered safe or healthful by the conventional wisdom that have since proved questionable or harmful (EMF radiation, fluoride, teflon, whole-grains, cigarettes, etc.)

What I do know is that skepticism is warranted given the nature of sous-vide (cooking foods vacuum sealed in a plastic bag). It is also pretty obvious that a paleolithic, late neolithic or even "traditional" (in the WAP sense) precedent for the method does not exist (as in the case of cooking foods over an open flame, boiling, etc.)

Sous-vide may be interesting, may be OK, and may offer some benefits (thorough cooking at controlled temperatures) but further inquiry is warranted.

On a somewhat related note, any opinions on other "new" cooking methods such as dry ice baths? The Quilt mentioned in another recent post that freezing food can oxidize PUFA content, and, if that is the case, submerging something in liquid nitrogen (ice cream, eggs, scallops, etc.) might be a poor nutritional choice. It might seem unlikely that the average person would do this, but it wasn't too long ago that sous-vide was limited to high-end restaurants.

is-sous-vide-safe?

1
D89e6e7f35d9820e16944c097057103a

on December 02, 2012
at 08:38 PM

Did studies on this for PhD and keeping short the results were conclusive that no issues were found with sous vide cooking in various manufactured for food plastics

1
2b2c2e4aa87e9aa4c99cae48e980f70d

(1059)

on November 09, 2011
at 12:20 AM

Could you wrap food to be sous-vide processed in banana leaves, much like tamales? How paleo is that?

1
8508fec4bae4a580d1e1b807058fee8e

on November 08, 2011
at 11:56 PM

Recent 2 good new posts on possible issues with plastics, Sous Vide, and other issues.

It seems like even BPA-free plastics can have EA (estrogenic activity)!

http://chriskresser.com/how-plastic-food-containers-could-be-making-you-fat-infertile-and-sick

http://nomnompaleo.com/post/12463202060/cooking-sous-vide-plastic-safety

0
E4ac3c6b5d6a0096cc1c112d85e7744c

on July 30, 2013
at 02:24 AM

What plastic bags hospital use for storing blood?

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on December 01, 2011
at 02:26 AM

I wish they'd made silicone bags instead. Those wouldn't have any leeching toxins.

The other way is to deep fry. Same kind of effect since at the right temperature, steam from the moisture in the meat you're cooking keeps the oil from seeping in. Sadly this way lies AGEs via browning, and carcinogens (at least from potato.)

0
0a635ab80e00edc197983f0b3ee20704

on November 30, 2011
at 10:36 PM

It has to be vacuum-sealable for sou vide cooking. A sheep's bladder might be worth a try, but I doubt that will hold up long enough in the water bath.

This could be a really fun experiment!

0
93eacaf190c656ec017b7c1c487813dc

on August 22, 2011
at 06:54 AM

besides the question of plastic, sous vide appears to gelatinize [wikipedia.org] the food, which seems un-paleo and pro-inflammatory at the least.

would love for somebody to say otherwise, though.

0
Ea463b20f50040cb9e5ee08ebf0cc599

on August 12, 2010
at 01:22 PM

of course cigarettes don't cause cancer.. don't be silly.

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