Guide to Food Grade Plastic

Friday, August 16, 2019

Plastic comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes. You can find it in your car, electronics, and your children’s toys. Plastics have countless uses, storing food and liquids probably the one you think of first. However, plastics that encounter products that will be consumed are highly regulated. In the United States, a regulatory agency such as the FDA creates these regulations regarding food grade plastic. Furthermore, these plastics are held at a higher standard than other plastics. Additionally, the United States processes and qualifies a plastic as “food grade” differently from other countries. Plastics that have approval in other countries may not have approval in the U.S. This guide will cover the following: The definition of food grade plastic, what plastic qualifies as food grade, and how to choose which food grade plastic is right for you.

Food Grade Plastic Packaging

What is Food Grade Plastic?

Food grade plastic resins are those approved for contact with edibles by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are known as food contact substances (FCS). Food grade does not mean that it is edible. It also differs from environmentally friendly, sustainable, or biodegradable. Food grade means the material (like plastics) can come in direct contact with the food we consume as part of the harvesting, processing, or packaging of the food. To meet food grade regulations, plastics must meet certain purity standards. It cannot contain dyes, other additives or recycled plastic products deemed harmful to humans. However, food grade plastic can contain some levels of recycled materials if those materials fit the guidelines and regulations outlined by the regulatory agency. Defined by the FDA, food contact substances are “any substance that is intended for use as a component of materials used in manufacturing, packing, packaging, transporting, or holding food.” This means that if the material is a mixture of other materials, each mixed material must meet regulation standards.

Which Types of Plastics are Food Grade?

As we have mentioned in previous posts, there are multiple types of plastic resins available. All plastic products in the United States carry a symbol and number on them, ranging from 1-7. However, not all plastics are FDA approved to hold food or liquids for human consumption. Here are the most common resins approved by the FDA for contact with food:

  • PETE (#1)

    •  Typically used for juice bottles, to hold salad dressings, and for jelly jars.

  • HDPE (#2) 

    •  Has great chemical resistant properties. Most juice containers, milk containers, and gallon food buckets are made from HDPE. This is also the best plastic for long-term food storage.

  • LDPE (#4) 

    • LDPE plastic is used mainly for plastic films for meats and baked goods, condiment squeeze bottles, and as six-pack rings. Note that virgin LDPE resins are safe for food contact, but recycled LDPE/PP blends have only been approved twice. 100% PCR LDPE resin is NOT cleared to be in contact with food.

  • PP (#5) 

    • These plastic types are commonly used for medicine, drinks, yogurt, baby bottles, and ketchup. Note that PP is hard, flexible, semi-transparent, and has a high resistance to solvents.

Which Food Grade Plastic Is Right for You?

Now that you have the facts, it’s time to choose which type of plastic is right for you and your product. Depending on the type of food or liquid being contained, certain plastics may be a better choice over others. Choosing the wrong plastic can cause chemicals to seep into your product. Finding the right packaging supplier, such as Packaging Options Direct, will make it easier to find the correct plastic bottle or jar. We are always happy to help make sure you choose the correct product before you purchase. 

In closing, we have learned that the FDA has defined what food grade plastic is and what types of plastic are acceptable for certain food and drink products. Now that you have this knowledge in hand you can shop our wide range of plastic packaging options and get your product to market with confidence that you have made the right choice. Visit our contact us page to get in touch with a knowledgeable customer service representative and complete your purchase today. 


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