Food Grade Plastic FAQ — Which Plastics are Safe for Food?

Whether you're preparing food and beverages for the masses or storing them in your own home, using food grade and food safe materials will help ensure that the products are safe for consumption. Food grade plastic is a popular choice for food processing, packaging and storing thanks to its sturdiness and the ease with which it can be cleaned and sanitized. But not all plastics are appropriate for food storage, and it can be tricky to know the difference between a food grade container and a food safe one. Check out some frequently asked questions about food grade plastics below.

What Does "Food Grade" Mean?

Food grade refers to anything safe for consumption or containers, tools, equipment or other supplies that are cleared to be used for food production. In the world of plastic, this means that food processing equipment like conveyor parts, feed pipes and tubes, scraper blades, cutting dies and more are approved for the handling of food.

What About "Food Safe"?

Food safe is a bit different from food grade. This term describes materials that won't create a food safety hazard when used as intended. This means that if a material is listed as safe for containing cold liquids, it may not necessarily be safe for storing hot liquids which could promote leaching of plastic chemicals.

Another difference between food safe and food grade is that food grade materials are generally better for long-term storage. So, while food safe plastic would make a good cutting board, it wouldn't necessarily be the best choice as a container to store and reheat your leftovers in.

Frequently Asked Questions about Food Grade & Food Safe Plastic

Knowing the distinction between food safe and food grade plastic is important, but there are plenty of other questions surrounding the world of plastic in food processing and storage. A&C Plastics is here with answers.

Which Plastics are Food Grade?

  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): the most common household plastic, used for cereal box liners, juice containers and milk jugs
  • Polypropylene: also quite common, used for reusable food storage containers and single-serving tubs. Microwave safe!
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): generally used for thicker food containers, like 2-liter soda bottles, peanut butter jars and salad dressing bottles. PET resin is stable, so it resists microorganisms like bacteria, as well as corrosion.

Is HDPE Food Safe?

Virgin, or non-recycled, HDPE is food safe. Recycled HDPE products are reviewed by the FDA on a case-by-case basis. Virgin HDPE is great for making food safe plastic containers since it resists corrosion, doesn't absorb much moisture and doesn't leach chemicals.

Is Polypropylene BPA Free?

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is highly contested in the world of plastics because it is believed to be toxic. However, BPA is only generally found in polycarbonates, so polypropylene is safe.

Are There Food Grade Polycarbonates?

Food grade polycarbonate does indeed exist! A&C Plastics carries FDA-approved polycarbonate sheet that is cleared for food preparation. This food grade plastic is commonly used in candy molds, hospital trays, serving bowls and more.

How Can I Use Plastic Safely in My Home?

  • Use plastic only as it was intended to be used: if it's not listed as dishwasher safe, don't put it in the dishwasher; if it's only meant for cool liquids, don't store hot liquids in it or leave it in direct sunlight with beverages inside, etc.
  • Don't use plastic containers with abrasions, cracks or other damage. These damages can cause chemicals in the resin to leach.
  • Don't store acidic foods like tomato sauce in plastic containers. The acidity of certain foods and beverages can draw chemicals from the plastic into the food.
  • Don't use abrasive scrubbers when washing plastic containers. Scratches can promote leaching.

Continue Learning at A&C Plastics

Still curious about the world of food grade plastic and its applications? Our Information Center is loaded with resources on food and beverage plastics, along with many others that cover the broad range of industries where plastics are regularly used — and where they're contributing to some of the most incredible innovations today. Read on or contact us today to discover how our plastic products can help get your project done.

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