As the food industry is rapidly changing, we are always looking for ways to improve productivity without compromising the quality of the foods that are produced. Businesses involved in the production, processing, packaging and distribution of food and beverages are required to comply with the highest food safety standards.

    Section Guide:

    What Is a Food-Grade Plastic Material?
        Plastic Materials Used in Food Applications
        Plastic Materials Designed for Direct Contact with Food
    Food-grade Plastic Line of Products
        Self-lubricating Plastic Materials
        Metal Detectable Plastics
        Heat-resistant Plastics
    The Advantages of Food-grade Plastics
         1. Safety
         2. Sanitation and Food Safety
         3. Mechanical Parts
         4. Structural Applications
         5. Conveying and Handling
         6. Storage
    What Food-grade Plastics Are Available
          Nylons
          UHMW
          Polycarbonates
          HDPE
          Acetal
          PEEK®
          Fiber-reinforced Plastics
    The Main Benefits of Food-grade Plastics:
         

    The Canadian food industry is subject to strict standards. Health Canada is, among other things, responsible for setting these standards and provide safety advice. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is mandated to enforce Health Canada food safety standards. Thus, "Mitigating risks to food safety is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)'s highest priority." [1] The quality and safety of products impact directly on the health of all consumers. Businesses in this sector have the responsibility and the duty to ensure the quality and freshness of their products. There is not doubt that the food industry is a very important area that affects all consumers. That is why businesses in this sector need to have infrastructure and facilities perfectly tailored to the specific needs of the industry, including efficient production infrastructure, but also safe for both factory workers and consumers. Thus, emphasis must be paid to the selection of materials that will be used in a food environment, especially for the:

    [1]https://www.inspection.gc.ca/food-safety-for-industry/compliance-continuum/guidance-for-inspectors/srrp/food-incident-response-process/eng/1544737953805/1544737954088

    What Is a Food-Grade Plastic Material?

    There are two categories of food-grade plastic material.

    Plastic Materials Used in Food Applications

    The first category is plastics that are approved for use in food applications. For example, a material used to build a footbridge or structural component in a food processing plant. It is important to note that the materials used in the fabrication of these structures are never in direct contact with food at all stages of the production line, but are used in facilities where foods are processed. These are materials that are suitable for food environments, although they are not specifically designed for this use. These materials, including performance plastics, are specially designed for applications where health standards are higher. They will withstand frequent cleaning With a wide range of products.

    Plastic Materials Designed for Direct Contact with Food

    The second category of food-grade plastics includes plastic materials designed to be in direct contact with food. These plastic materials are specially developed to avoid producing harmful particles that could contaminate food and pose a threat to consumer health. Therefore, they can be used safely in food production or processing lines. Applications include wear strips, conveyor lining, endless screws, funnels, etc. These plastics are both specifically designed to improve productivity and reduce the risk of food contamination. Water absorption of these plastics is very low, and they will be able to withstand cleaning repetitively. These food-grade materials comply with FDA standards and are approved to be in contact with food.

    Food-grade Plastic Line of Products

    Self-lubricating Plastic Materials

    These plastics are first designed to optimally perform in applications where friction is very high and continuous. That is why their properties make them very advantageous for the food industry. Friction can’t be avoided in a production environment. Parts fabricated with traditional materials (such as metal), require lubricating additive to ease the sliding and to lower the coefficient of friction. Hence their term "self-lubricating," these plastic materials "lubricate" by their own movement, eliminating the need for added external lubricant.

    There are two categories of self-lubricating plastics: plastics with build-in oil lubrication and plastics that are self-lubricating by the addition of lubrication (vegetable oil or wax). In both cases, their unique properties naturally ease the sliding and lower the coefficient of friction between two surfaces in contact. Reducing friction also improves the production speed and thus the overall productivity. Thanks to their very low coefficient of friction, self-lubricating plastics reduce friction and thereby prevent premature wear on mechanical parts. Less wear means longer lifespan of equipment. Mechanical parts made from self-lubricating plastic materials will be more durable over time than parts made of traditional materials. In addition, parts made of self-lubricating plastic helps to reduce noise and to provide safer environment for workers. The friction of metal parts will be much noisier than that of parts and components made from performance plastics.

    Metal Detectable Plastics

    This category of plastic materials has been created to be detectable by standard industrial metal detectors. These materials contain a metal-based additive. This plastic grade is used to reduce the risk of food contamination. By using MD plastic parts (Metal Detectable), we ensure that if a piece or fragment of part falls into the production line, we will be able to detect and intercept it. The use of metal detectable plastics also prevents unnecessary production shutdowns and product recalls. Besides being metal detectable, MD plastics are often coloured in blue for easy detection.

    Heat-resistant Plastics

    In food applications, some parts will be exposed to very high temperatures. Heat-resistant plastics are materials that, when exposed to very high temperatures (150 degrees Celsius in continuous), will retain their properties and stiffness. Thus, they will perform well enough in applications where metals, such as steel or aluminum, are traditionally used. Heat-resistant plastics are perfect combination of properties that were previously metal-specific (heat resistance, stiffness, impact resistance, etc.) with the low weight of plastic materials.

    The result is a material that is both very resistant and lightweight, allowing the parts to be tougher and more energy efficient.

    The Advantages of Food-grade Plastics

    Safety

    Secure workplaces at the level of compliance with CNESST standards, identification of hazards, and prevention of work-related accidents. Food-grade plastics effectively reduce risk for workers by: restricting access to machinery moving parts, preventing falls with nonskid surfaces, securing decks and increasing protection with safety glazing. Provide polycarbonate protective devices and nonskid FRP grating structures, and splash guard protectors to create safer work environments. Replace traditional materials with lighter materials will benefit as well, allowing easy handling for cleaning while reducing the risk of back injuries.

    Sanitation and Food Safety

    Ensure compliance with health and food safety regulations by using plastic materials that meet the highest standards in the food industry. Secure surfaces that are in contact with food products. Replace work surfaces with non-porous materials that making them easier to clean and unaffected by moisture. Install a low maintenance wall covering designed to withstand very frequent cleaning.

    Mechanical Parts

    Parts made of high-performance plastics are ideal for demanding applications where materials are subject to multiple stresses. These parts must be durable, strong, impact resistant and wear resistant. Many factors need to be considered in the optimization of a food production or processing line. Replacing machinery parts with some made of high-performance plastic materials improve productivity of machines and save costs of maintenance. If you find that some mechanical parts of your production equipment worn out too quickly, have too short lifespan and are often needed to be replaced, a wise investment would be to change material. By choosing parts made of high-performance plastic material that will be better suited to its environment and the stresses to which it will be exposed in continuous. Lightweight mechanical parts will also require less energy during use, save money by spending less energy or mechanical force to make an engine work, for example.

    Structural Applications

    Structural components suitable for all types of environments that are resistant to corrosion, impact and chemicals as well as being non-skid to reduce the risk of falls. Stable and durable structural components adapted to their environments are fundamental criteria to improve the work environment. Workers walk through on a daily basis and structures often have a hard time, by being exposed to impact, wear, corrosive agents and, most importantly, potentially pathogens, including bacteria. Special caution should be paid to businesses of food sector as health and safety standards are very high. For this industry, one specific material stands out from the others by its properties and its great versatility. Fibreglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) has many advantages over structural components made of more traditional materials (such as wood or metal). Fibreglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) offers many features that make it a material of choice for structural applications that are both strong, safe and aesthetic.

    Conveying and Handling

    Surfaces with a very low coefficient of friction, perfectly suited for highly efficient transfer belt to optimize productivity. Self-lubricating plastic materials improve flow on the production line. Conveying and handling operations at every stage of the production, distribution and processing are critical and must be optimal. They require a proper planning of the production process to ensure a smooth and efficient flowing of food products on conveyors. The enemy number one of fluidity is friction. That is exactly where performance plastics will improve productivity. Whether it is feed chutes, wear strips or even wall covering, choosing plastic materials suitable for these applications will improve the equipment efficiency, extend its lifespan, and increase the production speed without compromising product quality. Many plastic materials are also available in a self-lubricating grade. These include FDA compliant nylon Nyloil® FG, and UHMW TIVAR® HPV, an ideal material for conveyor guides and applications under high pressure and speed.

    Storage

    Custom-made tanks and containers unaffected by moisture and most corrosive chemicals. Plastic materials are well suited for storing liquids or food. They are resistant to corrosive products and are non-porous, preventing pathogenic bacteria to be in the fine holes of the plastic surface. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is a suitable material for custom basin design, depending on the type of liquid it will contain and the required dimensions. Best options for food storage solutions are designed with durable, high-strength materials.

    What Food-grade Plastics Are Available

    Nylons

    This specific plastic category offers excellent versatility. Thanks to their very low coefficient of friction, nylons improve the sliding on production lines. Parts made with nylon are durable and much lighter than same parts made with metal, and help reduce wear. Nylons have very advantageous mechanical properties for replacing components originally designed with metals.

    UHMW

    Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (PE-UHMW) is an extremely strong plastic material because its resistance to both friction and chemicals, making it a material of choice for mechanical parts applications that are subjected high stresses (pressure, friction, wear, etc.)

    • UHMW TIVAR® 1000 (FDA)
    • UHMW TIVAR® CERAM-P
    • UHMW TIVAR® H.O.T. (FDA)
    • UHMW TIVAR® HPV (FDA)
    • UHMW TIVAR® MD (FDA)

     

    Polycarbonates

    As a material that provides both lightweight and strength, it is known for its excellent impact resistance. Polycarbonate is 250 x more impact resistant than glass, making it a good choice in applications of safety glazing and safety guard. Food-grade polycarbonate is also available.

    • Polycarbonate GP (General Purpose)
    • Polycarbonate FG (Food Grade)

    HDPE

    High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is a plastic material that has high chemical resistance and that will be unaffected by food acids. That is why it is frequently used to fabricate containers, tanks, work surfaces, cutting boards, wall covering, etc.

    • HDPE SANALITE® (FDA)
    • Polyethylene AGROMUR
    • HDPE natural (FDA)

    Acetal

    This performance thermoplastic is well suited for mechanical applications that are both energy efficient and very durable. Acetal is a more effective solution than stainless steel because of its lightweight, excellent wear resistance and low moisture absorption.

    • ACETRON® MD

    PEEK®

    Polyethethercetone (PEEK®) is a very high-performance thermoplastic. This advanced material is perfectly suited for highly demanding environments where the properties of more traditional materials would be quickly degraded. Known for its outstanding heat resistance, it can withstand working temperatures of up to 250 degrees Celsius.

    • Ketron® MD
    • ERTALYTE® TX
       

    Fiber-reinforced Plastics

    Fibreglass-reinforced plastics (PRF) are strong and lightweight. Their surface provides a durable finish that is easy to clean. Several non-slip finishes and colours are available.

    • FRP wall panel
    • FRP (FF grade)

     

    The Main Benefits of Food-grade Plastics:

    • Reducing friction
    • Available in self-lubricating grade
    • Available in metal-detectable grade
    • Available in blue colour for easy detection
    • Reducing the risk of food contamination
    • High chemical resistance
    • Excellent heat resistance
    • Reducing the risk of accidents
    • More efficient than stainless steel
    • Improving the lifespan of parts
    • Allows to fabricate more energy-efficient parts
    • Improved production speed
    • Reducing noise in work environments
    • Reducing the risk of accidents during maintenance
    • Reducing maintenance costs
    • Reducing the needs of maintenance

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