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The question of whether or not polycarbonate material is food-safe is common among manufacturers and consumers alike. Polycarbonate is a versatile plastic material with substantial uses due to its durability and impact resistance. It's found in many food contact applications, such as kitchen utensils and containers. However, lingering concerns exist regarding its food-contact safety due to its chemical composition and potential for bisphenol-A (BPA) leaching. While Polycarbonate is technically not FDA-approved or food-safe, there are grades that are FDA-approved and compliant.

As plastics have increasingly become a dominant part of our food packaging and storage solutions, food processing facilities also incorporate them into their assembly lines. Therefore, using food-safe plastics is crucial for manufacturers since these can potentially contaminate the food. At the same time, employee safety is imperative to improve their productivity. That said, let's explore the properties of polycarbonate plastic and discover its suitability for direct food contact and processing operations.

What are the Different Grades of Polycarbonate Plastic?

Polycarbonate tubing and sheets are two of the most commonly used polycarbonate materials in food processing operations. These are available in various grades with unique properties that make them desirable in countless food production applications.

These grades are as follows:

  • Standard: Standard polycarbonate plastics haven't gone through any manufacturing process to enhance their intrinsic properties. However, its impact resistance and ability to withstand fluctuating temperatures and chemicals are still top-tier.
  • Flame-retardant: Flame-retardant polycarbonate has improved fire resistance and is ideal for high-risk projects. These are known for their flammability standard of UL94.
  • Hard-coated: Polycarbonate material that’s treated to elevate its scratch-resistant features are termed hard-coated. Food processing facilities often use this grade to create protective machine guards, safety gates, and other safety components.
  • Anti-static: An anti-static polycarbonate material can effectively control electrostatic discharge, essential for sensitive environments such as food processing facilities. These have an approximate resistivity of 1012.
  • FDA Compliant: When used in food-related applications, polycarbonate material must meet FDA regulations to ensure safety. This means the material is free of BPA and other harmful chemicals.

What is an FDA-Compliant Polycarbonate Material?

The standard for FDA compliance is set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which ensures that all materials used for food contact are safe, non-toxic, and free from harmful chemical substances. While polycarbonate itself is not approved by the FDA, there are grades of this plastic that meet their standards.

Polycarbonate material has been under scrutiny over the past few years due to a harmful substance called BPA. It was a concern among consumers, leading to extensive testing. Fortunately, it came out that the BPA intake is very low, which means the chemicals don't accumulate in the body. With this in mind, the FDA concluded it safe for food contact since it doesn't pose any health risks on such small levels.

At Emco Industrial Plastics, you can find quality plastics for food contact and food-processing operations without compromising the safety of your consumers and workers. Food-safe polycarbonate materials, such as polycarbonate tubing and panels, are used to create safety reinforcements and production assemblies in processing plants.

Contact us today to learn more about the type of plastics we have for your special projects. Request a quote, and we can jumpstart your project through our extensive range of capabilities! 

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