For years, we have been consuming plastic for different purposes; from carrying food to electronics, every industry utilizes plastic. Do you know yearly plastics production increased nearly 230-fold to 460 million tons in 2019 over the last 70 years?
According to the latest report, packaging is the dominant industry that utilizes the most plastic, with 42% of plastic consumption in each phase.
But the major concern is the use of non-food-grade or unsafe plastics in the food packaging industry that harm our health and the environment.
Plastic-associated chemicals PBDE, BPA, and DEHP are the primary culprits of inflammatory diseases, such as bowel movement syndrome and respiratory diseases.
Therefore, it is crucial for manufacturers and consumers to consider food-safe plastic to avoid severe health problems associated with plastic. In this guide, we will dig deep into food-grade and food safe plastic, its differences, and its types.
So, if you are interested in making an informed decision about which plastic has green signals to use in the food sector, please keep reading!
What Does Food Grade Mean in Plastics?
If you are an eco-conscious consumer or want to become one, you must wonder what food-grade means in the plastic world and how to determine if the plastic you use is safe for food contact. Right?
Food-grade plastic is non-toxic and meets the safety guidelines provided by authorities. These have consisted of 1 to 7 scales used to determine the safety of plastic in food-related applications.
The food-grade plastics comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which tests the product to determine whether it is manufactured on their strict guidelines.
Any plastic product used for packing, storing, transporting, and serving food must be rated safe by regulatory bodies.
But how do manufacturers produce food-grade plastic products?
The food grade of plastic depends on its composition. The manufacturer who mass-produces non-toxic plastic products considers the plastic composition used.
Some plastics have a unique composition, providing chemical resistance, non-toxic nature, and low chances of chemical leaching when heated or in contact with food.
Generally, food grade rating from 1-7 is placed below the plastic product or marked green for identification. But are all plastics from a 1 to 7 rating safe from toxin infiltration?
Let us break it down for you.
|Food-Grade||Plastic Type||Typical Usage||Recommendation|
|1||Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)||Food and beverage packaging industry due to its lightweight.||Safe to use|
|2||High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)||Packaging of food storing products such as milk bottles and containers.||Safe to use|
|3||Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)||Wrapper packaging and pipe manufacturing industry.||Not safe to use|
|4||Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)||Manufacturing of plastic bags (bread bags) and squeezable bottles.||Safe to use|
|5||Polypropylene (PP)||Making reusable food containers and food storage containers.||Safe to use|
|6||Polystyrene PS||Single-use food packaging products and shipping cases||Not safe to use|
|7||Others (PLA, PC, ABS, TPE, and Tritan)||Manufacturing baby products, water bottles, and storage containers.||Some are safe, and some are not safe to use.|
Food-Safe vs. Food-Grade:
When talking about plastic usage in the food industry, we must have heard of the terms food-safe and food-grade. People usually use these terms interchangeably because food-safe and food-grade are different words for the same term.
However, the reality is completely contrasting. Food-grade and food-safe are two different phenomena.
Let’s discuss them thoroughly for better understanding!
Food-grade plastics are any BPA-free and less chemically concentrated material that does not release harsh chemicals or toxins when consumed or come in contact with food.
It includes all the products not necessarily made for food contacts, such as kitchen gadgets, conveyor belts, and appliances.
On the other hand, food-safe plastics are products specifically designed for food contact and are safe for consuming, carrying, and storing food.
These products are tested and approved by FDA for direct contact as they do not pose any harmful impact on human health.
Some of the prominent features of food-safe plastics are:
- Toxin and harsh chemical-free
- Provide high chemical resistance
- Less likely to release toxins when heated
- Low risks of contaminating food color or smell
Although both options are fair for food-related applications; however, it is advisable to food-safe plastic products for assurance because they meet the standards of the FDA religiously.
You can check the food-grade label on various products to make sure they are safe for intended you.
What’s Important to Know About BPA?
BPA (Bisphenol A) is a health-deteriorating chemical commonly found in a wide variety of disposable beverage and food packaging products.
It is also used in the production of PC plastics and epoxy resins. However, studies have claimed that BPA is not safe for food contact and consumption due to its concerning health hazards.
BPA enters the human system through food-related consumption, such as beverage containers, bottles, and food boxes. When these containers are heated, they leach chemicals and toxins into the food causing serious medical conditions in the human body.
What is BPA, and Why is It Dangerous?
BPA is a harmful chemical, also known as an endocrine disruptor, potentially disturbing the human hormonal system. Its exposure can cause severe human diseases such as reproductive disorders, obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.
Expert researchers claim that the human body has the ability to expel low concentrations of BPA from the body without any concern.
Thus, low levels of BPA exposure in food packaging products are safe as it does not adversely affect human health. However, it is advisable to avoid BPA-containing products for food reheating purposes.
Types of Food-grade Plastics:
If you want to select the right material that fits your application demand and also provides optimum safety, it is important to understand different types of food-grade plastics.
Here are some common types:
1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate):
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a lightweight plastic used for manufacturing bottles and packaging used in the beverages industry. It includes soda bottles and food storage containers.
It is an ideal choice for eco-conscious consumers as it is recyclable and reduces environmental impact. However, it can release estrogenic compounds when frequently reused.
2. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene):
It is one of the best options for domestic applications because it is safe for cold storage. This material is approved by FDA and USDA because it is toxin-free and recyclable. It is typically utilized for food packaging intended for cold storage, such as milk containers, salad containers, and juice bottles.
It offers high strength, holding capacities, and resistance features, providing durable performance.
3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride):
Polyvinyl chloride PVC is not considered a safe material option in the food packaging industry because it releases plasticizers such as BPA, phthalates, and bisphenols.
Moreover, it is made of vinyl chloride monomer, which is indirectly a carcinogen and causes severe health risks. Therefore, it is not recommended for applications involving direct contact or consumption of food.
4. LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene):
Another common plastic material used in the food packaging industry is LDPE. You can stretch out LDPE and use it for different food-related purposes.
It is used for making cling wraps, stretchy plastic bags, and squeezable plastic bottles (ketchup and sauce bottles). LDPE is not a sturdy and resistant option, but it is easily reusable up to 3-4 times.
5. PP (Polypropylene):
It is a lightweight food-grade plastic with extraordinary impact resistance, flexibility, and durability. It is often used in the food packaging industry for manufacturing single-use tableware and reusable containers.
It is suitable for usage in the microwave and refrigerator. Furthermore, it is FDA-approved material claiming safe for food contact and consumption.
6. PS (Polystyrene):
Polystyrene is a widely used plastic material for manufacturing foam-like clamshells, cups, and containers. However, it is unsafe for food-related usage because it leaches toxins, residual catalysts, and harmful chemicals. It release toxins when used in the microwave for reheating.
Also, the products made of PS impact the environment adversely as it is non-biodegradable and recyclable.
PC (polycarbonate) is commonly used for hospital trays, baby milk bottles, and storage containers. It is a heat-stable, impact-resistant, lightweight material with great dimensional stability.
However, there has been a concern about BPA leaching from products made with polycarbonate. Therefore, industries are switching to BPA-free polycarbonates or PLA bioplastics for manufacturing products because they are safer for food contact.
Related Guide: Polystyrene and Polyethylene: A Comparison Guide
Safe Plastics Number Chart for Food-Grade Plastic:
The chart explains the safe plastics from the range of 1 to 7 food grade. You can easily identify the safety and usage of plastic products by checking the food grade number at the bottom.
The green sign on 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 identifies products as safe as it does not leach any chemicals into the food products. However, red plastic materials must be avoided because they are unsafe for consumption.
Some most common examples of food-grade plastics are HDPE, LDPE, PP, and PLA. These plastics have low toxicity levels and the risk of releasing chemicals in what you eat.
What Are the Uses for Food Grade Plastic?
You must have heard of food-grade plastic application in the food industry, but it is not limited to food-related applications. Food-grade plastics have a wide range of applications in other sectors concerning health and the environment.
Let’s discuss the common application of food-grade plastic;
Food and Beverage Containers:
Food-grade plastics such as LDPE, HDPE, and PET are used to manufacture food and beverage containers such as bottles, juice boxes, and storage containers.
Plastic Food Wrapping:
LDPE and PVC plastics are used for manufacturing flexible and stretchable food wrapping, such as cheese wraps, bread bags, and meat package bags. These cling wrap packaging are useful to avoid bacterial invasion and food contamination.
Food processing equipment such as conveyor belts, kitchen tools, and cutting boards are usually made of HDPE and PP food-grade plastics. They provide high strength and stability to the equipment.
PLA, PS, and PET are commonly used for manufacturing disposable tableware products such as plates, cutlery, cups, and bowls. They are used in restaurants and the takeaway sector.
Pharmaceutical and Medical Containers:
HDPE, LDPE, and PET plastics are utilized for making medical products such as surgical containers and medicine transporting containers.
Kemal: Manufacturing Food-Grade Plastic Products for You
At Kemal, we are responsible for providing you with the best food-grade plastic products for your application.
We have a qualified team and advanced machinery to ensure the final product meets your requirements. Kemal is also well-known for other capabilities, such as CNC Machining, Plastic Injection Molding, and Mold manufacturing.
We manufacture FDA-approved food-grade plastic products for different industrial applications. You can customize products according to your application demand. For more information and quotation, contact us. Our teams are 24 hours available for assistance.