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Microwave: Dangerous or not?

How about microwave: Dangerous or not?

According to World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) microwave ovens are safe and convenient for heating and cooking foods. However, several  precautions need to be taken and manufacturer’s instructions need to be follow accordingly to avoid potential exposure to microwaves, thermal burns and food handling.

Client: is it true by using microwave to heat food cause foods to become radioactive Miss Dietitian?

Dietitian: For the question,  let me explain to you here:

First of all we need to know what is microwave radiation?

  • According to FDA, microwaves are a form of “electromagnetic” radiation, where waves of electrical and magnetic energy moving together through space. Electromagnetic radiation spans a broad spectrum from very long radio waves to very short gamma rays. Microwaves are used to detect speeding cars and for communication (telephone or television).  Microwaves also been used in industry to dry and cure plywood, to cure rubber and resins, to raise bread etc.
  • The most common used by consumers is microwave ovens.

How microwaves oven function?

  • Microwaves have three characteristic that allow them to be used in cooking: they are reflected by metal and pass through glass, paper, plastic and similar materials and this microwave will be absorbed by foods.
  • Microwaves are produced inside the oven by electron tube called magnetron. Then the microwaves are reflected within the metal interior of the oven where they are absorbed by food. Microwaves cause water molecules in food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food.
  • Food that are high in water content, such as vegetables can be cooked more quickly than other foods. So the microwave energy is changed to heat as it is absorbed by food and does not make food “radioactive” or "contaminated"

Client: So microwave is actually can be used conveniently! I see!

Dietitian: Yes. Moreover, microwave cooking can be more efficient than conventional cooking as foods cook faster and the energy heats only the food, not the whole oven compartment. Microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking. In fact, foods cooked in a microwave oven may retain their vitamins and minerals because microwave can cook more quickly without adding water.

  • Glass, paper, ceramic or plastic containers are used in microwave cooking because microwaves pass through these materials. Although containers above cannot be heated by microwave, they can still become hot from the heat of the food cooked inside.
  • Some plastic containers should not be used in a microwave oven because they can be melted by the heat of the food inside unless some manufacturer confirm their products can be safely microwave.
  • Metal pans or aluminum foil should also not be used in a microwave oven as microwave are reflected off these materials and causing the food to cook unevenly and cause damage to the oven.
  • The instructions that come with each microwave oven indicate the kinds of containers to use. Read the instruction carefully!

Below are tips shared by FDA Tips on Safe Microwave Oven Operation

  • Follow the manufacturer's instruction manual for recommended operating procedures and safety precautions for your oven model.
  • Use microwave safe cookware specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven.
  • Don't operate a microwave oven if the door does not close firmly or is bent, warped, or otherwise damaged.
  • Stop using a microwave oven if it continues to operate with the door open.
  • As an added safety precaution, don't stand directly against an oven (and don't allow children to do this) for long periods of time while it is operating.
  • Do not heat water or liquids in the microwave oven longer than recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Some ovens should not be operated when empty. Refer to the instruction manual for your oven.
  • Do not overcooked foods so that nutrients can be retain.
  • Regularly clean the oven cavity, the outer edge of the cavity, and the door with water and a mild detergent. A special microwave oven cleaner is not necessary. Be sure to not use scouring pads, steel wool, or other abrasives.


  • World Health Organization
  • U.S Food and Drug Administration
  • Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)