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Plastics of the Food Service Industry

Posted by Josh Kaufman on 2/22/2017 to Food Service

Plastic is everywhere! Each year, approximately 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured around the globe. Regardless of where you are, it’s likely that you won’t be able to go far without seeing something made of plastic. The kitchen is no exception. From containers to utensils, plastic has a presence in the food service industry because of its durability and affordability.

Plastic isn’t universal; there are different kinds of plastic manufactured for different uses. The safety level of each kind of plastic depends on the chemicals it contains. It’s important that food service workers utilize the right kinds of plastics to keep their food free from contamination and safe to eat.

What is Food-Grade Plastic?

According to Great Western Containers, food-grade plastic refers to any plastic that comes into contact with food or drinks. It is held to a much higher standard than other plastics and is regulated in the United States by the FDA. Food-grade plastic must meet purity standards, meaning it cannot contain dyes, additives, or other recycled plastic materials that can be harmful to humans.

One of the concerns with plastic is leaching, a process that involves chemicals from the plastic getting into food or beverages. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the chemicals of concern is bisphenol A (BPA). BPA has been used to make plastic since the 1960s, but it can potentially cause health problems if consumed in high amounts. The FDA is aware of the hazards and continues to monitor them, but the organization has said the amount of BPA leached from containers into food is so minimal that consumers need not worry. It is suggested, however, that food-grade plastics are kept from the high heat of microwaves and dishwashers because it can cause the plastic to break down over time and allow additional leaching.

Know Your Plastics

Need a quick way to know if a plastic container is safe for food? Just look at the bottom of the container. You’ll see a recycle symbol around a number. The number is the key to knowing all about the plastic used for that container. According to Natural Society, numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 are safe for food and drinks, while numbers 3, 6, and 7 should be avoided when possible. Here’s a little more information on each:

#1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET) - PETE is typically used for condiment bottles and jars, as well as salad dressing containers. It is not known to leach, but it can allow bacteria to accumulate, so it’s important to keep containers clean and store them properly.

#2 High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – HDPE is an opaque plastic used for milk jugs, juice bottles, cereal box liners, yogurt tubs, and butter tubs. It also is used for grocery and trash bags. There is little to no risk of leaching with HDPE.

#3 Vinyl (V or PVC) – Most commonly used in cling wraps for meats and cheeses, vinyl can leach phthalates that are linked to numerous health issues. This type of plastic should not be used in cooking.

#4 Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) – LDPE is found in squeezable bottles and some bread and frozen food bags. It is considered safe, although it is not as highly regarded as PETE or HDPE.

#5 Polypropylene (PP) – Polypropylene is one of the safer plastics available and is used in some ketchup bottles, yogurt tubs, butter tubs, and syrup bottles.

#6 Polystyrene (PS) – Also known as Styrofoam, polystyrene is notorious for leaching, especially when heated.

#7 Other/Miscellaneous – All other forms of plastic are classified as miscellaneous. It includes microwave ovenware, eating utensils, and linings of metal cans. These plastics can leach over time.

There may be some circumstances when the use of number 3, 6, and 7 plastics can’t be avoided. Just try to limit their use. The more exposure there is to them, the higher the chances leaching could occur.

Increase Your Safety and Sanitation

Make the extra effort to practice the highest level of sanitation and food safety. Visit FoodSinksTB.com to download our Free Health Department Compliance Solutions Bulletin. You can also request a Free Handwashing Compliance Sign to post by your handwashing station.

When you use promo code FS2017TB, you will receive 10% Off on All Online Orders. At SINKSNMORE, our portable sinks are made with the consumer in mind and are manufactured with food-grade plastic.

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