Plastic Materials for Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Applications
In the food and beverage industry, plastic parts and components must be built to ensure optimal sanitation and consumer safety. If these products aren’t cleared as suitable “food contact substances” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the end products will not make it to market. Put simply, “food contact substances” refer to any substance intended for use as a component of materials used in manufacturing, packing, packaging, or transporting.
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The most commonly used plastics in the food and beverage industry are Food Grade UHMW-PE, which is potentially involved in virtually any part of the food-production cycle (conveyor belts, bushings and rollers) Food Grade Acetal, which is often used to replace nylon in applications with high moisture, as well as small and precise metal parts. Food Grade Acetal is one of the first plastics marketed with a blue color. Blue is most often used in the food industry for its high visibility which is extremely helpful in the identification of plastic contamination in food.
To provide the safest possible packaging solution, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of which plastics are food-safe and which are not.
Plastic Material Properties
- Low-friction, good wear plastics - These materials are suitable for use as guide rails, chain guides, curve tracks and wear strips. Low-friction, good-wear plastics offer several benefits, including:
- Impact resistance
- Wear resistance
- Abrasion resistance
- Chemical and stain resistant plastics - These plastics have excellent resistance to a vast range of harsh chemicals, including aggressive food products and cleaning solutions.
- Temperature resistant thermoplastics - Temperature-resistant materials are widely used in the baking industry
- Metal Detectable Plastics - These materials help prevent product contamination caused by the introduction of foreign materials during processing. Metal detectable options include:
- X-ray detectable plastics
- Optically detectable plastics
Food Processing Applications
- Food conveying - To ensure high efficiency and smooth operations, the rollers on belts that transfer food from one machine to the next must exhibit good sliding and wear-resistance properties.
- Industrial tubing - Plastic products can be used for industrial tubing applications in a range of industries, including the aerospace, food technology, electrical engineering and electronics, medical technology, and mechanical engineering sectors.
How Can Emco Help You?
Whether you require a prototype or a high-volume production run, Emco Plastics has a solution at the ready. Our team offers extensive in-house fabrication and machining services and can work directly from CAD drawings or blueprints. If you don't have a drawing or blueprint, we can reverse engineer from a customer provided sample.
In many cases, steel, aluminum, and other metal components can be easily replaced with our cutting-edge plastics. A few examples are outlined below.
- Polycarbonate and Lexan covers for food processing applications - Polycarbonate, a thermoplastic material, exhibits high impact strength and toughness, excellent creep, and optical clarity. It is available in FDA-compliant grades and in compounds that provide superior abrasion resistance.
- Timing screws and OEM replacement parts - Emco can reproduce OEM machine equipment to ensure there is no downtime when components fail. In past projects, we've used plastics as a replacement material for clients' failing component needs, such as:
- Steel and aluminum conveyor supports, replaced with nylon 6/6
- Steel and aluminum conveyor rollers, replaced with nylon 6/6
- UHMW profile shapes for conveying - Developers and manufacturers of the machinery used in conveyor systems and material handling and bottling industries frequently rely on thermoplastic components, such as extruded profiles.
- Custom machined parts including:
- Thurst washers
- Forming Plates
- Slide Bearings
- Change Parts
- Timing Screws
Quality Assurance Regulations
To ensure consumer safety, plastics used in the food and beverage industry must comply with the latest quality and health regulations. Emco Plastics is compliant with the following standards:
- FDA - The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for determining how materials may be used in contact with food products. The FDA is also involved in the publication of the Federal Register, which contains the Code of Federal Regulations.
- USDA - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Safety and Inspection Service regulates the manufacturing, packaging, and handling practices in the agricultural food industry. USDA policy states that components used in direct contact with food must be documented to show their compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act via a written letter of guaranty from the manufacturer to ensure that they are formulated in compliance with relevant regulations.
- 3-A (Dairy and Milk) - 3-A was founded in the 1920s by three dairy associations aiming to establish sanitary standards and practices for the equipment and systems used to process milk and milk products and other perishable foods. Standard Number 20-17, 3-A Sanitary Standards for Multiple-Use Plastic Materials Used as Product Contact Surfaces for Dairy Equipment has been developed to "...cover the material requirements of plastics for multiple-use as product contact and/or cleaning solution contact surfaces in equipment for production, processing and handling of milk and milk product(s)."
- EU 10/2011 - The European Union regulation EU 10/2011 sets rules for plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.
- Canada AG - The safety of all materials used for food packaging is controlled under Division 23 of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, Section B.23.001, which prohibits the sales of foods in packages that could imbue the contents with any substances that may be harmful to the consumer.
- FDA CFR 21 - The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is a codification of the general and permanent rules laid out in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government, and Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations is reserved for rules of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Each title (or volume) of the CFR is revised once each calendar year.
- NSF International - The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is a not for profit organization that provides public health and safety risk management solutions.
For more than 35 years, Emco Industrial Plastics has been providing high-quality machined and fabricated plastic components for a wide range of industries and applications. We offer multiple production methods - including advanced CNC machining, and solvent and adhesive bonding - to allow for the manufacture of completely tailored, client-specified parts.
To bring your vision to life, Emco's engineering staff will work with you on material selection, sizing, and design to ensure the end product meets all of your exact needs.
Curious to learn more about our inventory of high-performance plastic materials? Reach out to the team today to discuss your options with an expert.