When it comes to finding and creating plastic food packaging, it’s vital to understand whether a plastic is considered to be food-safe or not. A food-safe plastic resin has been certified approved safe for contact with food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These plastics are known as food contact substances (FCS).
The FDA defines a food contact substance as being any substance that is to be used in materials created for manufacturing, packing, packaging, holding, and transporting foods. The following is a look at the most common plastic resins approved as being safe for food contact by the FDA.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
Polyethylene terephthalate is commonly used in plastics that are used for food contact. It’s found in everything from 2-liter bottles to peanut butter jars and salad dressing bottles. If you find a single-serving bottle then there’s a good chance that it is made using PET. PET containers can be treated to be microwavable safe and can be used as containers for take-out or single-serving food trays in cafeterias and fast food places.
The FDA has approved the use of both virgin (untreated) and post-consumer recycled (PCR) PET containers for contact with food. PET has been tested and studied completely for negative health effects and has been proven to have none. So don’t worry at all about any PET product.
Polypropylene is another common plastic. There’s a good chance that your fridge and cupboards contain something made from polypropylene as the plastic is commonly used for reusable storage containers for food. It’s also the plastic that single-serve tubs such as yogurt containers are made from.
PP plastics have been approved safe for food contact by the FDA. They are an inert material which means that they don’t pose health risks to consumers. It doesn’t interact with food at all. Recycled polypropylene was approved as food safe by the FDA in 2013.
Polypropylene comes with a high melting point that makes it a great choice for microwavable food containers. It is completely non-volatile, not reacting at all to liquids, bases, and acids. This is what makes it so great for storing just about any kind of food, especially sensitive foods.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE is one of the most common household plastics around. HDPE can be found in the grocery store as it is used for plastic bottles for juice and milk. HDPE can also be found in butter containers, large food buckets, and cereal box liners. This includes supplies for cafeterias and restaurants.
Untreated HDPE is considered safe for food contact. When it comes to recycled HDPE, the FDA has sanctioned it for use with food contact on a case-by-case basis for more than 20 years. HDPE resin is used to create corrosion-resistant and non-absorbent plastics. This makes it great for storing sodas, milk, and other beverages. HDPE containers also don’t leak chemicals into contents like certain other plastics.
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Low-Density Polyethylene plastics are similar to HDPE plastics but are considered to be less rigid. They are typically used in squeeze bottles, like the ones used for ketchup and other condiments. It’s also used for plastic films like the ones used to wrap commercial meats and baked goods, as well as for six-pack rings.
Untreated LDPE is considered safe for food contact by the FDA. The FDA has approved recycled LDPE/PP blends on just two occasions. Even so, materials that are made from 100% PCR LPDE resin has not been approved for food contact by the FDA.
LPDE is resistant to chemicals, has high impact strength, and is great at absorbing damage. Much like plastics made from PET and HDPE, LDPE is able to hold food products without leaking any chemicals or other harmful materials into food. It also prevents microorganisms from growing and permeating its contents, keeping food safe.
When packing food for any purpose it’s important to use only FDA-approved packaging. Make sure you use one of the approved plastics included in our list to avoid getting in trouble. Don’t put the health of customers at risk with bad packaging, it’s just not worth it.