What are the different types of Food Grade plastic?

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Being able to safely store and transport food and drink is one of the most overlooked components of the modern world economy. Without safe storage containers, we wouldn’t be able to get milk from the farm to the shop, we couldn’t transport spices from one country to the next, and we wouldn’t have access to the incredible range of goods that we find in our local supermarkets and shops.

While there’s an equally diverse range of containers and packaging to transport this diversity of goods across the world, it’s food grade plastic (such as blue food grade plastic barrels) that arguably play the biggest role in this mass movement of consumable goods.

Food grade plastic encompasses a wide variety of different plastics. In this article, we asked our experts at ITP Packaging to break down which plastics are food grade quality.


If plastic is certified as ‘food grade’, this means it’s safe for food and drink intended for human consumption to be stored inside it. Food grade essentially just means food safe, so if your plastic is food grade certified, then you can use it to store anything from vegetables and curry powder to ice cream and peanuts!

Food grade plastics come in a fantastic variety of shapes and sizes, and are designed to suit their particular needs. We aren’t just talking industrial-sized food grade plastic barrels either, but all of the plastic packaging you find on the shop shelf. Water bottles need to be food grade, as do fizzy drink bottles, yoghurt pots, and everything else stored in plastic.

Plastics that are ‘food grade’ certified are designated as such with a UN marking. However, there isn’t just one type of plastic that’s food grade. In fact, many different types of plastic are totally safe for food and drink storage.

A good measure of food grade quality plastics is provided by the FDA in the United States, which has stringent health and safety requirements. The most common plastics certified as food grade by the FDA include the following:

  • HDPE (High-density polyethylene): used for industrial standard, food grade plastic barrels.
  • LDPE (Low-density polyethylene): used to produce plastic bags and light plastic wrappings.
  • PP (Polypropylene): used for thick plastic milk bottles and medicinal containers.
  • PET (Polyethylene terephthalate): used for single-use plastic bottles.


As you can see, different types of plastics have different uses. The application of a particular plastic depends on its structure and rigidity. If you’re producing plastic shopping bags, you don’t need HDPE. If you’re producing industrial standard storage containers, you do need HDPE because it’s stronger and more durable than LDPE.

Regardless of the intended use of the plastic container, food grade plastics have a particular set of qualities that make them safe for storing consumable goods.

For starters, it’s imperative that food grade plastic is non-toxic. It can’t contaminate the food or drink that humans are going to consume. For this reason, food grade plastics are produced without the use of materials that are dangerous to humans (dyes for instance).

Food grade plastics also need to be able to withstand (and hold their shape and integrity) the food itself. Many foodstuffs are acidic, and they can prove to be corrosive towards plastic. Food grade plastic can’t be contaminated by the food, or have adverse reactions to food products.


Food grade plastic barrels are one of the most commonly used containers in the food industry, although you probably won’t see them in your local supermarket. Large plastic barrels are used in an industrial capacity, for large quantities of foodstuffs. To be successful in this capacity, they have all of the qualities of food grade plastic that we’ve been discussing.

Constructed from HDPE, food grade plastic barrels are hardwearing, rigid and durable, meaning they can withstand shocks and transport food safely and in one piece. As they are produced from HDPE, they are also non-toxic and aren’t affected by the potential acidity in food.


ITP Packaging stocks a comprehensive range of plastic industrial containers, including food grade plastic barrels that are certified for the storage and transport of consumable goods. Our experienced staff can offer expert advice and guidance to help you to select the best food grade plastic barrels for your business.

Contact ITP Packaging today to find out more about our industrial packaging offers.

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