Plastics for Food-Contact

A plastic that has been approved for direct contact with food is safe for direct contact with tobacco.

FDA Compliance Within the FDA, there is no government-operated process of inspection of plastics produced for food contact use. Rather, the FDA in their regulations provides certain specifications regarding composition, additives, and properties. A material that meets these standards can then be stated as FDA COMPLIANT. This is based exclusively on material composition.

USDA Compliance For a product to be USDA COMPLIANT, components used in direct food contact must be documented as to their compliance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDA compliance”). Therefore, USDA requirements for material approval are satisfied by a certification of FDA compliance. This is approved only for individually manufactured products, on a product by product basis, and only for products falling under the purview of the USDA (in the agricultural food industry).

The information below is specific for sheet and slab plastics available from US Plastics but may be useful in some tobacco applications that are heated to various temperatures.

ACETAL (Delrin®) White Acetal-150 has excellent load-bearing qualities in both tension and compression. Acetal does not absorb a large amount of moisture and is resistant to a wide range of solvents. Acetals are attacked by both strong acids and oxidizing agents. The service temp range is -20 to 185 deg F, intermittent 200 deg F. High yield strength at elevated temperatures. It is an excellent material for bearings, gears, cams, and other small parts. Properties include low friction, high wear resistance, and ease of fabrication. Meets FDA standards and is USDA-approved. It is not UV stabilized.

ACRYLIC This plastic sheet is completely transparent, flexible, and exhibits great resistance to breakage. Acrylic is an excellent material to use in place of glass for windows, skylights, doors, partitions, etc. It is lightweight, half the weight of glass, and it is virtually unaffected by nature. Acrylic transparency, gloss, and dimensional shape are virtually unaffected by years of exposure to the elements, salt spray, or corrosive atmospheres. These materials withstand exposure to light from fluorescent lamps without darkening or deteriorating. They ultimately discolor, however, when exposed to high-intensity UV light below 265 nm. It can take temperatures from -40 deg F to 180 deg F (intermittent to 200 deg F). Fabrication is easy, as it can be sawed with fine tooth blades, drilled with plastic drills, sanded, and polished. Also, it can be cemented with Acrylic cement. It meets FDA standards, is UV stabilized, and has a UL 95 Flammability rating. The forming temp is 350 deg F. Applications include inspection windows, sight gauges, windshields, meter faces, protective covers, safety shields, tanks, desktops, displays, trays, and chair pads.

NYLON With the ease of fabrication and many superior properties, Nylon has found wide application for bearings, bushings, washers, seals, gears, guides, rollers, wear plates, fasteners, insulators, forming dies, sleeves, liners, cooling fans, and many other parts. Properties include high wear and abrasion resistance, with a low coefficient of friction, high strength to weight ratio. It has corrosion-resistant to alkali and organic chemicals. It is non-abrasive to other materials, with noise dampening characteristics, also a good electrical insulator. It is not UV stabilized, but it is USDA and FDA compliant. The temp range is -40 deg F to 225 deg F.

POLYETHYLENE LDPE These sheets can be heat-formed, shaped, and welded to fabricate ducts, hoods, and much more. They have excellent corrosion resistance to a wide range of items. Polyethylene is susceptible to stress cracking when exposed to ultraviolet and some chemicals. Wetting agents such as detergents accelerate stress cracking. It cannot be cemented but easily welded with a plastic welder. LDPE can be cut with a wood saw and drilled with regular metal bits. Not UV stabilized but does meet FDA standards. The Low-Density Polyethylene has a .92 density. Semi-rigid with good impact resistance and abrasion resistance. It is white translucent with working temps of 0-140 deg F. and a forming temp of 245 deg F.

POLYETHYLENE HDPE Rigidity and tensile strength of the HDPE resins are considerably higher than those of LDPE & MDPE materials. Impact strength is slightly lower, as is to be expected in a stiffer material. These sheets can be heat-formed, shaped, and welded to fabricate ducts, hoods, and much more. They have excellent corrosion resistance to a wide range of items. HDPE cannot be cemented but is easily welded with a plastic welder. It can be cut with a wood saw and drilled with regular metal bits. Not UV stabilized but meets FDA standards. The High-Density Polyethylene has a density of .95. Rigid, good impact, and abrasion resistance. It is white translucent with a working temp of -60-180 deg F and a forming temp of 295 deg F.

POLYPROPYLENE Offers a good balance of thermal, chemical, and electrical properties with moderate strength. It possesses a good strength to weight ratio. Due to its hard, high gloss surface, PP is ideally suited to environments where there is a concern for bacteria build-up that can interfere with the flow. These sheets can be heat-formed, shaped, and welded to fabricate ducts, hoods, and much more. They have excellent corrosion resistance to a wide range of items. Cannot be cemented but is easily welded with a plastic welder. PP can be cut with a wood saw and drilled with regular metal bits. Not UV stabilized but is USDA approved and meets FDA standards. Polypropylene has a .90 density, rigid with fair impact resistance and very good abrasion resistance. It is white-tan, translucent with working temperatures of 32 deg F to 210 deg F and a forming temp of 310-325 deg F.

PVC EXPANDED SHEET Sintra PVC sheet is a moderately expanded high density, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sheet. As a lightweight plastic material, it can be easily cut, sawed, drilled, and fabricated. The sheet is an excellent material for model exhibits and displays. For interior signage only. Can be painted and silk-screened. Its characteristics include foamed PVC sheet material that is approx half the weight of solid PVC; durable and hard-wearing under many adverse conditions and resists most chemicals and water, with its porous interior and hard smooth surface; it can be painted, printed, silk-screened, laminated, etc; easy to clean and has an attractive surface, and is fire retardant. Good sound dampening-UL 94 flammability class 94 V-O-945; USDA approved. Colors available: white, black, gray, and beige.

STYRENE Use this high-impact styrene sheet for models, prototypes, signs, displays, enclosures, and more. It can be drilled, threaded, sawed, sheared, punched, and machined. It can also be painted and has excellent forming properties (vacuum pressure). It is non-toxic and odorless, dimensionally stable, has low water absorption, and is heat and electronically sealable. Maximum heat resistance is 180 deg F and the forming temp is -325 deg F to 350 deg F. Styrene meets FDA standards but is not UV stabilized.

UHMW This Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Polyethylene bar has exceptionally high abrasion and impacts resistance properties. It will outwear all other materials, including metals, nylons, urethanes, and fluoroplastics. In corrosion resistance, it has the same qualities as other polyethylene plastics. The working temperature range is from -60 to 200 deg F. Because it resists wearing, friction, and corrosion, it cuts maintenance costs, energy consumption, and extends equipment life. Applications include guide rails, wear plates, rollers, conveyor augers, bin and hopper lines, chutes, bearings, bushings, and gears. Its properties include the low coefficient of friction, self-lubrication, non-adherent surface, FDA and USDA concurrence for contact with foods, drugs, etc.

Maximum hot fill temperatures for plastic bottles and jars

PET (polyethylene terephthalate)   120°F
PS (polystyrene)                                 150°F
HDPE (high-density polyethylene)  145°F
LDPE (low-density polyethylene)    120°F
PP (polypropylene)                           165°F

Plastics used in bottles and rigid containers: Polyethylene Terephthalate: Soda bottles, water bottles, vinegar bottles, medicine containers, backing for photography film.

High-density Polyethylene: Containers for laundry/dish detergent, fabric softeners, bleach, milk, shampoo, conditioner, motor oil. Newer bulletproof vests, various toys.

Vinyl/Polyvinyl Chloride: Pipes, shower curtains, meat wraps, cooking oil bottles, baby bottle nipples, shrink wrap, clear medical tubing, vinyl dashboards, and seat covers, coffee containers.

Low-density Polyethylene: Wrapping films, grocery bags, sandwich bags.

Polypropylene: Tupperware®, syrup bottles, yogurt tubs, diapers, outdoor carpet.

Polystyrene: Coffee cups, disposable cutlery, and cups (clear and colored), bakery shells, meat trays, “cheap” hubcaps, packing peanuts, styrofoam insulation.

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