Food Grade vs Food Safe - What is the difference?

You may have always thought these two terms meant the same thing. Or maybe you know they’re different but not sure what each one means.

So, what does each one actually mean?

In short, food grade means that the material is suitable to come into direct contact with food.

And food safe means that the food grade material and finished product is suitable for it’s intended use and will not create a food safety hazard.

The key difference here is regarding materials, and finished products.

Food grade typically refers to a material, and essentially states that the material doesn’t contain any toxins or dangerous substances. For something to be considered food grade, the material must be able to be cleaned effectively, and not allow any foreign particles to find their way into food. Generally, the surface should be smooth and free of any imperfections such as cracks, ridges or crevices, where bacteria could grow.

When this material is used to create a product, the situation changes slightly, and this is where food safe comes in. A product is said to be food safe when it is declared safe to use for the specific purpose for which it is designed. This includes considerations like the temperature that it will be used at, the ability to clean the product, and how long it will be in contact with food.

 

Take a plastic container as an example.

The plastic that the container is constructed from doesn’t contain any toxins, and is free from imperfections, so is declared to be food grade.

For the container to be declared as food safe, however, the following conditions may also need to be considered:

  • What temperature range is it safe to hold food at?
  • How long is it designed to hold food?
  • What chemicals can be used to clean the container?
  • How easy is it to the clean the container?

These considerations would depend from product to product. For instance, a container that is designed to be disposable would not need to meet any conditions for cleaning.

 

As a further example, a cleaning brush may be made entirely from food grade materials. However, for it to be food safe it would also need to be designed in a way that:

-ensures it doesn’t harbour bacteria

-retains bristles effectively, to prevent foreign body contamination

 

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