For food and beverage manufacturers, in addition to ensuring safety in the production process, care must also be taken in the selection of packaging materials. If the packaging is not food safe, it could leak chemicals into your food, potentially causing health problems later on.

Here’s what you need to know about food-safe plastic for use in food and beverage packaging.

1. What Makes Plastic Safe or Unsafe for Food?

Basically, the regulations make sure that any surface which comes in contact with food is non-toxic. This includes all the materials used during manufacturing as well as packaging.  

If plastic packaging has been deemed “safe”, it will have the food safe symbol on it.

Resin Identification Codes (aka Recycling Number)

The Resin Identification Code (RIC) is the little number in a triangle that you will see on most plastic packages. This number lets you know what type of plastic packaging is made from.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that the RIC number tells you whether plastic is safe for food or not.  This is not the case.  For example, many food containers are made out of plastic #2 (HDPE).  But many containers which are not food grade (such as buckets or gas cans) are also made from plastic #2.

BPA and Plastic Packaging

When it comes to chemicals in plastic packaging, Bisphenol A – or BPA – gets the most attention.  Numerous studies have found that BPA may leach into food or water and cause health effects like endocrine disorders, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, fetal development problems, and cancers. 

Plastics containing BPA are listed as safe under FDA regulations.  However, because BPA is associated with so many health risks, plastics containing BPA won’t make it on most food-safe plastic lists.

Just because plastic doesn’t contain BPA, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe. The chemicals used in BPA-free containers, such as BPS and BPF, may be just as bad.  And that doesn’t even take into consideration the many other chemicals in plastic that could leach into your food or water.

The bottom line?

When you do have to use plastic films for food and beverage packaging, choose ones which are:

  • Labeled as Food Safe
  • Don’t contain harmful chemicals (at least any of the ones we know about now)
  • To be least likely to leach chemicals

2. List of safe plastic films for food and beverage packaging

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

  • Recycling Code: #1
  • Contains BPA: No

PETE is one of the most common food-grade plastics and is generally considered safe. However, there have been reports of PETE water bottles being chemically washed out – especially when exposed to high temperatures. At about 70 degrees F, levels of the chemical appear to be safe. However, as the temperature gets higher, dangerous chemicals begin to seep inside at a faster rate.

If you live in a very hot place, it might not be smart to use PET plastic for food storage. As a general rule, PET plastic is also not recommended for long-term water storage because it develops small holes as it decomposes, which can lead to water leaks all over your floor.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

  • Recycling Code: #2
  • Contains BPA: No

HDPE is generally considered the best food-safe plastic, it is very strong and durable.

Compared to other food-safe plastics, HDPE is the least likely to leak chemicals into the interior.

Note: HDPE is commonly used for non-food items such as machine oil or cleaning products.

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

  • Recycling code: #4
  • Contains BPA: No

LDPE plastic is very flexible, is not associated with any health risks, and is not likely to leak chemicals. However, because it is so versatile, it is not usually used to hold food or water.

Polypropylene (PP)

  • Recycling Code: #5
  • Contains BPA: No

Compared to other plastics, polypropylene is more resistant to heat and exposure to acids or grease. This makes it less likely to leak chemicals. If you need to store foods like ketchup (acidic) or vegetable oils (grease), PP plastic may be the best choice.

PP plastic is generally considered microwave and dishwasher safe. There aren’t any known health problems associated with PP plastic.

3. Plastic is NOT safe for food and beverage packaging

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

  • Recycling Code: #3
  • Harmful Chemicals: Phthalates

Even though PVC plastics are labeled as “food safe” by the FDA, it is best to avoid this type of plastic.  It contains phthalates, a group of chemicals that can affect sex hormones.  They are also associated with obesity, asthma, and birth defects. 

Polystyrene (PS)

  • Recycling Code: #6
  • Harmful Chemicals: Styrene

Better known as Styrofoam, polystyrene plastics are known to leach a chemical called styrene. The chemical is terrible for the environment and also associated with numerous health issues.  It should be avoided and never heated.

Miscellaneous (Polycarbonate and Polylactide)

  • Recycling Code: #7 to #19
  • Harmful Chemicals: BPA

Plastic codes #7-19 are used for miscellaneous plastics, including Polycarbonate (PC) and Polylactide containers.  While some of these plastics may be food-safe, the problem is that you can’t be sure what’s in the plastic.  Many of them might contain BPA or other harmful chemicals and it’s likely that they could leach into your food or water.

Other interesting page: Barrier feature of plastic film used for product packaging

So you know which types of plastic films are safe and unsafe to use to produce packaging for food and beverages. However, in order to best protect your products before reaching consumers, you need to combine many different types of plastic film (called laminate packaging).

4. A supplier of prestigious and quality plastic films

Union Packaging with many years of experience in the field of providing plastic films and plastic packaging is manufactured from virgin plastic particles and meets FDA standards. Customers can rest assured when cooperating with us because Union Packaging always ensures:

  • Customer satisfaction is the number 1 priority
  • Outstanding product quality from stable sources of quality goods from Taiwan and China
  • Competitive price
  • Reputation builds a brand
  • Product safety certification
  • Fast shipping
  • Various payment policies
  • Enthusiastic, dynamic, and creative staff
  • Providing a wide range of plastic films for packaging materials
  • Being a close partner of many suppliers

Union Packaging is a reputable and experienced supplier of OPP, CPP, MCPP, PET, MPET, PE laminated film…. in the industry. We always try to research, develop and improve product quality, improve customer care ability to meet the increasing demands of the domestic and foreign packaging market. Please contact us now: 0987 437 469 – 0903 750 384 for specific advice and quotation.

UNION PACKAGING SOLUTION JOINT STOCK COMPANY

Address: No. 5, 3643A Street, Pham The Hien, Ward 7, District 8, HCMC

Tel: 0987 437 469 – 0903 750 384

Email: sales@hopnhatpack.com

Website: www.hopnhatpack.com – www.baobihopnhat.com

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