When you’re packaging food or beverages, you have to use safe materials. Food-safe plastic resins must meet the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for safety and durability. FDA-approved materials must be able to withstand their environments—such as extreme temperatures—as well as be compatible with the substances they store. This means these plastics can’t leach any chemicals, degrade against acidic foods or beverages, or otherwise react to the food they hold. Not all FDA-approved plastics work for every type of food or beverage, so it’s important to pay attention to specific guidelines. Learn more about which plastics are FDA-approved with this guide.
Polycarbonate, or PC, has undergone heavy testing to prove that it meets the FDA’s standards of being safe for food contact. PC is an incredibly strong plastic, making it perfect for durable containers such as reusable water bottles, water cooler containers, and baby bottles. This plastic’s toughness also makes it ideal for large containers that need to reliably store large amounts of a product.
The widely popular polypropylene (PP) works well for reusable storage containers or smaller, single-serving tubs such as yogurt cups. PP is an extremely safe plastic. Its high melting point makes it ideal for microwavable containers. This plastic is also nonvolatile, so it won’t react with any food you store within it, whether it’s acidic, basic, or liquid.
Also known as HDPE, high-density polyethylene is a common staple in the milk and juice aisle of your local grocery store. You can also find HDPE in butter containers and large food storage buckets. HDPE resists corrosion and doesn’t absorb a lot of moisture. This makes it ideal for plastic milk bottles and other beverage containers.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) shares many similarities with HDPE, but it’s far less rigid. This makes LDPE a popular material for squeeze bottles, such as those that store condiments. LDPE also makes cling wrap for safe food packaging and storage. This plastic repels microorganisms and has excellent chemical resistance. LDPE also doesn’t leach any harmful chemicals, making it perfect for safe and fresh food storage.
Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is one of the most common and versatile plastics that are FDA-approved. You’re sure to come across PET every time you step into a food or drink aisle. Used for peanut butter jars, single-serve beverages, and many things in between, PET is a stable plastic that doesn’t degrade when it comes in contact with food or beverages. The FDA has also approved PET in its recycled state, making it safe for food contact again and again.