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Which food grade packaging materials are safe for liquids?

For centuries, people stored consumable liquids in copper vessels because of their supposed health benefits. Modern-day consumers, on the other hand, have a range of food grade packaging materials to preserve the quality of their beverages. 

Instances of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis A continue to be substantial contributors to global mortality. Notably, research shows unsafe water outruns natural disasters and conflicts combined. 

Therefore, the food industry faces the pressing responsibility of prioritising consumer health by investing in safe packaging materials.

So, which food grade packaging materials are best for storing and shipping liquids?

Understanding food grade packaging

Food grade packaging pertains to materials and products that are safe for contact with food. This is standardised by stringent regulations and meticulous production guidelines. 

However, many tend to confuse the terms “food grade” and “food safe”. While both are requisite concepts in the food and beverage industry, their distinction lies in their different applications. 

Food safe products are designed from food grade packaging materials and will not foster any safety concerns when utilised correctly. For instance, a container labelled as food safe and designed to store dry goods will be safe to use for that designated purpose. That said, it may not be advised to store hot liquids in the container. 

Simply put: 

  • Food grade: Refers to materials produced under strict regulations to ensure they’re safe for consumption or contact with food.
  • Food safe: Refers to products made of food grade materials that do not pose a safety risk when used for their intended purpose.
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Essential certifications for food grade materials

To ensure material safety, several governing bodies lay out specific standards for food grade packaging. Key organisations, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have outlined structured guidelines focused on customer safety. 

By strictly adhering to such guidelines, food businesses can obtain certifications that underline the credibility of their products and help to instil consumer trust.

The most common food grade packaging materials used in restaurants and cafes range from styrofoam to paper and single-use plastics. These provide convenience for both businesses and consumers. That said, it’s important to be aware of associated health and environmental risks linked to these materials.

Many consumers, for instance, repurpose single-use plastic food containers, inadvertently putting their health at risk. A prominent concern is PVC or #3 polyvinyl chloride containers, which are known to leak harmful phthalates into food, especially when reused. Alternatively, phthalate-free or glass containers can serve as safer substitutes.

Polystyrene or styrofoam also poses health risks. Consuming hot or fatty foods from polystyrene containers leads to increased styrene intake, which can cause problems to the central nervous system.

Thankfully, safer alternatives to these common materials do exist, accentuating the imperative need for consumers and businesses to make better-informed health and environmental choices.

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Safest and suitable food grade materials for liquids

Food businesses can opt for safer, more suitable food grade packaging materials for their liquid products. This choice is not only beneficial for customer health and safety but can also enhance a company’s brand image in the increasingly environment-conscious marketplace. 

BPA-free packaging

Not all plastics pose the same risks. For liquids, an excellent choice is BPA-Free plastic. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic compound often used in the production of certain plastics and resins. 

BPA is most commonly found in polycarbonate plastics often used to manufacture a variety of consumer goods, from sports water bottles to baby bottles, sippy cups, and even dental sealants. Exposure to BPA has been linked with an array of health risks, including hormone disruption and numerous other potential health issues. 

To ensure that plastic is BPA-free, the industry has turned to alternative manufacturing technologies. Instead of Bisphenol A, manufacturers use other safer compounds, such as Bisphenol S or Bisphenol F, that don’t leach into food or beverages in the same way BPA can. 

Combined with rigorous testing and quality control standards, this ensures that the plastic used in the packs remains BPA-free.

Drink cartons

Drink cartons present another safe option for fluid storage. These cartons comply with the European Union’s stringent safety requirements, all while offering a Declaration of Compliance (DoC) for various regulations or industry standards. The inherent properties of beverage cartons lend themselves to food safety and longevity. 

With protective and recyclable layers that envelop contents, these containers possess the following advantages: 

  • Cartons allow for food storage of up to 12 months, meaning products packaged in don’t require refrigeration.
  • There’s no need for added preservatives, reducing potential health risks.
  • With no refrigeration required, cartons save on energy usage and associated costs.

In offering such advantageous properties, drink cartons certainly stand as a viable packaging option for businesses in the food industry.

Glass

Glass holds a unique advantage as a food grade packaging material. Distinguished from others, it requires no plastic or chemical liners, reducing any risk of chemicals seeping into the stored food and drinks. 

This inherent safety feature is particularly recommended by doctors as a way of limiting children’s exposure to hazardous chemicals. 

Renowned for its safety, glass has earned the categorisation of being “generally recognised as safe” by the FDA. Its production from wholly natural raw materials, such as silica sand, soda ash, and limestone, along with recycled glass, further testifies to this. 

The resultant packaging is not only naturally protective but inherently non-toxic. This makes glass an exceptional choice in the array of food grade packaging materials.

With the online food delivery market projected to hit a revenue of $269.80 billion this year, the transition to safer food grade packaging materials is imperative. 

Consumers are not only willing to pay extra for sustainable packaging, but their growing health consciousness urges food businesses and manufacturers to prioritise health alongside sustainability. 

This significant shift in focus ushers in a new era in food packaging, one where the prime focus is a harmonious blend of environmental responsibility, consumer safety, and economic feasibility. As food businesses adapt to healthier and safer packaging alternatives, they’re embracing a forward-thinking approach that will surely redefine industry standards.