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Food Grade Products & Legislation

Why do we have to use food-grade products, and what are the best ones to use?

Handling or selling food to customers comes with a duty of care to make sure you're using food-grade products at all times. This could be the food packaging, food preparation utensils, waste bins, dispensers, equipment used to transport food and even food-grade grease for machinery. After all, you've built up your business and don’t want your reputation ruined by getting a fine or making your customers queasy!

Food preparation

Food-grade products must meet specific regulations to ensure anything that comes into direct contact with the food doesn't cause contamination. But why else do food-based businesses have to use food-grade products, and what are the best ones to use?

What are food-grade products?

So what do we mean by food-grade products? Essentially, we are talking about the materials used in manufacturing products that come into direct contact with food. For example, chopping boards and ingredients bins. They must be manufactured using non-toxic materials that are free from unwanted, dangerous substances and bacteria-free. They must also be easy to clean, i.e. the surface should be smooth without any ridges, crevices or cracks where bacteria could remain and grow.

Food Contact Materials (FCMs) come into contact with food at all stages of production, storage, processing, preparation and serving. Some materials used in manufacturing products like plastics, can contain certain chemicals which could leach into any food they are in contact with. They can include:

  • Food containers in the transportation of food, even down to your takeaway containers
  • Food packaging materials
  • Kitchenware
  • Tableware
  • Food Bins
  • Printing inks and adhesive labels

Hygienic food preparation

Food Grade Regulations

Food-grade materials are covered by the food contact materials regulations, which the Food Standards Agency oversees. However, they don't cover any substances used to coat food which can be eaten with it, like sausage skin.

The four categories of FCMs that come under the specific food-grade regulations are:

  • Plastic monomers and additives
  • Active/intelligent materials (AIMs)
  • Recycled plastic processes
  • Regenerated cellulose film (RCF)

Each of these categories have a different set of regulations or directives. These dictate if food-grade materials are authorised to be incorporated into products that will be in direct contact with food.

However, when it comes to AIMs and recycled plastic, there is still no established legislation. Therefore, they are regulated by the General Food Law Regulations, which state that any FCMs should not be harmful to human health, detrimentally affect the composition of food, or adversely affect its taste, aroma, colour or texture. It's important to note that any AIMs, recycled plastics or additives in plastics cannot be used until they have been authorised.

Chefs using stainless steel work tables

Types of acceptable food grade products

Food-grade products used in a food environment, be it distribution, storage, preparation or cooking, such as a kitchen and serving area, must be of sufficient and acceptable food-grade. This includes products like grease for machinery and equipment. Let's look at three food-grade products that are authorised for use in food environments.

  • Food-grade storage trucks with lids - often, the first contact food has with a food-grade product is at the storage stage. Manufactured from medium density, 100% food-grade polyethylene, ingredient trucks are fitted with a transparent lid which is shatterproof for a robust, long life. Swivel castors make them easy to move and are ideal for use in food manufacturing and processing environments.
  • Food-grade ingredients dispensers with lids - as with the above storage trucks, food-grade ingredients dispensers are also manufactured using a food-grade polyethylene that is 100% food-grade authorised. Again, a transparent, shatterproof fitted lid ensures the ingredients remain in perfect condition. They are great for use in locations where quick and easy access to ingredients is needed, such as professional kitchens and bakeries. Being available in various colours makes it easy to differentiate between ingredients, and they come in different sizes.
  • Food-grade grease - even the grease you use to lubricate equipment and machinery, like the swivel castors on food-grade storage trucks, has to be food-grade in case of incidental contact. Vickerlube food-grade HLW grease is registered not only to H1 - the industry standard for lubricants intended for use on equipment and machinery with the potential for incidental food contact – it is also certified for Halal and Kosher food processing. This high load waterproof oil-based smooth white grease has a wide operating temperature range, high wear resistance and excellent water resistance. So, in areas where regular wash downs are needed, such as food manufacturing, it is an ideal grease. As well as meeting HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) requirements, it is compatible with most other greases, extends the life of your equipment and machinery, as well as helping with audits. There are also chain oils, hydraulic and compressor fluids, chain lubricants, high temperature bearing greases, mineral oil grease and silicone sprays, all of which are of a food-grade standard.

Baps on production line

There are a wide variety of other food-grade products available, including ingredient scoops made with non-stick food-grade polyethylene and lids for round food-grade bins. These can be used with tapered side and straight side round food grade bins. Mobile tray racks are ideal for bakeries, confectioneries, supermarkets and restaurants with food-grade trays designed to withstand temperatures from -10°C to 40°C. Fitted with castors that incorporate brakes, they are ideal for storing and transporting food products.

You can also find secure personal lockers manufactured from materials that meet food-grade standards. Using high-strength, impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic, they are ventilated, easy to clean and stackable with a 3-digit changeable combination code lock. They’re the ideal size to fit in cupboards, on shelves, work tables and even in fridges.

ESE Direct is a leading supplier of products for businesses that handle, manufacture or sell food products. We have more than four decades of experience and are always on hand to impart some words of wisdom - whatever it is you sell - from sausages to steak, confectionery to coffee and everything in between.

Photograph of Debs

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Digital marketer, social media, content writer, musician, sloth-lover, tea-drinker.