Why do we use containers made of plastic?
Tins, cans, glasses, and paper bags were commonplace at convenience stores and supermarkets until the 1950s. For younger readers, it may appear as though there was never a time before the invention of plastic packaging; nevertheless, this is not the case. It wasn't until after the war that convenient containers for storing things like Tupperware were developed. Zip lock bags allowed you to safely store food in the freezer or fridge without worrying about what you were consuming.
Several primary factors have contributed to the predominance of plastic packaging in modern supermarkets, including the following:
Plastic has a reputation for being a very long-lasting material. Many plastic containers, for instance, are resistant to shattering, which means that they will not crack when dropped the same way as glass.
Hygiene: Plastic is an excellent material for preventing the contamination of food. This is crucial to avoid the mixing of allergens and the transmission of viruses.
- Weight: Plastics are incredibly lightweight materials, which makes it simple and inexpensive to ship them to any location on the planet.
- Recyclable: Although this fact may come as a surprise to you, the majority of plastics can be recycled. In recent years, supermarkets have taken steps to ensure that most of the plastic packaging they use is recyclable and biodegradable.
- Shelf-life: Plastic packaging shortens the time for fresh goods, such as fruit and red meats, to be kept fresh on a store shelf. Because of this, consumer expenses are kept at a lower level.
- Availability: Because there is no shortage of plastic anywhere in the globe, the cost of packaging may be reasonable while keeping up with demand.
What makes plastic suitable for use in food preparation or food grade?
The primary factor in determining which plastics can be recognised to be safe for use around food is government regulation and legislation. As noted previously, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the regulatory agency in the UK responsible for establishing the standards that all of our packages and producers of plastic must adhere to.
The most up-to-date version of the definition can be found in a document with a catchy name called "Plastic Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012." It is a rather lengthy document that specifies which polymers and for what lengths of time they may come into contact with food. Simply clicking on this link will take you to the complete document.
It is essential to keep in mind that the applicability of this legislation is not guaranteed to extend beyond national boundaries. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates plastic packaging in the United States, and the standards they enforce are not the same as those implemented in the United Kingdom.
In a nutshell, the purity of plastic determines whether or not it may be used for food. In most cases, this means that colours or recyclable materials that could harm human health are not allowed to be used in the production of plastic. Additives are usually a no-go zone. This is the standard explanation for why goods soiled with grease and oil, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled.
Plastics that are Suitable for Use in Food
The following are examples of common polymers that can be used in food preparation:
- Natural Grade Nylon 6 (without additives)
- Polyester (PET)
- PTFE (also known as Teflon)
Some plastics can be food-safe if they have the correct chemical makeup, so complete your study before purchasing any of the following for food-related use! Some plastics may be food-safe if they have the proper chemical makeup. These are the following:
- Other forms of Nylon
Uses for Plastics That Are Safe for Food
Therefore, why is being food-safe and having a food-grade rating such a big deal? We have already covered the topic of packaging, as this is the most common application of plastics in the food and beverage sector; nevertheless, several other essential applications exist. For instance, plastic can be utilised to produce cutlery and plates.
The refrigerator is the other "major" place where food-safe plastic can be used. I want a secure place to keep food in your refrigerator and freezer. Refrigerator shelving is often fabricated using FSA-approved plastics, such as PET or PETG.