I bought a number of bags of rice and pasta and stored it in a plastic bin in the basement. I recently grabbed one of those bags of rice and it smells gross, like plastic. Everything in the bin smells like that. I haven't cooked it yet but in the past when I've cooked food that's had a bad/odd plastic smell, it still had it after cooking and due to the smell/taste I threw it away. Currently, I've had the rice sitting out in a bowl for the past few days and the smell hasn't gone away.

  1. What do I do for the food I have to get rid of the smell?
  2. And without getting overly pricey, how should I store things like this for the future?

I really don't want to waste all this food but I can't bring myself to make it as it is right now.

  • How old was this rice/pasta? Was it stored directly in the bin, or with a liner (including the original store bag)? Have you tried washing it?
    – Joe M
    Feb 2, 2016 at 16:03
  • Were these food grade plastic storage bins?
    – moscafj
    Feb 2, 2016 at 16:28
  • How much food do you want to store and for how long?
    – GdD
    Feb 2, 2016 at 17:16
  • Joe M - It was approximately 2 years old. It was stored in the original packaging directly in a plastic bin, no liner. No, I haven't tried washing it.
    – StockMom
    Feb 2, 2016 at 17:54
  • 2
    @StockMom if not food safe plastic, there is the likelihood that off-gassing from the bins is the culprit. Whether or not this is dangerous, I do not know. Perhaps someone who has expertise can weigh in. Safety would be my concern at this point.
    – moscafj
    Feb 2, 2016 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


If these were not food-safe/toy-safe bins, it is likely softeners/plasticizers from the plastic materials gassing out and migrating into the ingredients.

These can be phtalates or other petrochemical/organic compounds, and if in doubt, they are as unsafe in food as gasoline would be.

I certainly would not want to give anything that has taken on enough of that to smell of it to children, even if it could be prepared in a way that lost the smell.

If you discard it, you might consider doing so in a manner that makes sure nobody mistakes it for excess but safe packaged goods.

A lot of clear plastic bins you can currently buy ARE either explicitly marked as food safe (look for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_safe_symbol, often engraved into the plastic), or made from the same material as common in these that are explicitly labelled: polypropylene, which, if not labelled, could still have some questionable additives, but plasticizers are generally NOT needed to make household items from that material. I still certainly would not use the non-graded stuff to directly hold unpackaged foods.

HDPE can be safe for similar reasons (questionable mold release agents), any PVC or Polycarbonate container that is not labelled as food safe very likely is not.


Not extending answer because of a completely different context.

Actually, adulterated rice has been found (and might have found its way to non-Asian markets too), which is made with ... plastic.


This is less likely to be your problem than an unsuitable container, but might be relevant for other readers finding that question because of similar issues (I would assume that kind of rice to only smell of plastic when accidentally overheated/burned). If you have suspect rice, look at a few grains of rice under a magnifying glass for a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resin_identification_code engraved on them ;)

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