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Are microwave ovens safe?

Many of us use microwave ovens to defrost, reheat and cook food, and even though this convenience has been around for decades, some still worry that microwave ovens may not be completely safe to use.

Is microwaved food safe to eat?
Woman using a microwave

Read on to learn what you really need to know about safe microwave oven use.

Are microwave ovens dangerous?

According to Health Canada, the long-held belief that microwaves use radiation to “nuke” food is completely false. “Microwaves are a form of radiofrequency electromagnetic energy. They are generated electronically. They do not come from radioactive sources and they do not cause food or the oven itself to become radioactive.”

How do microwave ovens cook food?

Microwaves cause water molecules to rotate within the food and generate friction, which results in a temperature increase. Microwaves do not cause radiation in the food or oven itself. When the oven is shut off, the microwaves cease to exist and do not remain in the food or oven.

Is microwave energy safe?

Although there is potential for microwave energy to be emitted by the oven during use, there are no associated health risks for a properly maintained microwave oven. Microwave ovens sold in Canada do not allow leakage outside of government-established regulations.

Microwave maintenance

Be sure the seal on your microwave oven isn’t dirty, damaged or broken. Don’t use a microwave oven with a damaged door, latch or hinges.


Pacemakers: Although microwave ovens once interfered with pacemakers, that is no longer the case, although anyone with a pacemaker who feels uncomfortable or dizzy near a microwave oven should move away and call their doctor.

Defrosting: Use foods defrosted in the microwave oven immediately.

Reheating: Heat foods fully, and discard any remaining food.

Cooking: Use a digital food thermometer to ensure food is thoroughly cooked. Cut food into pieces to guard against unevenly cooked food with “hot spots.” Follow microwave cooking instructions on prepackaged food items, and leave a space for steam to escape covered foods.

Containers: Use only microwave-safe cookware to defrost, reheat or cook food in a microwave oven. Do not use Styrofoam takeout trays or non-microwave-approved plastic containers or plastic wrap. Health Canada warns, “These are not heat stable, they could melt or warp, potentially causing harmful chemicals to leech into food.”

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