What is Food Grade Silicone?
Food-grade silicone refers to a specific type of silicone that is produced in compliance with food contact safety standards. This means that food-grade silicone does not contain fillers that are unsafe for use with food. These fillers are often used to reduce manufacturing costs, making the industrial “equivalent” of silicone less expensive. To be classified as “food grade,” silicone products must undergo testing by regulatory bodies such as the FDA (in the USA) or the LFGB (the European equivalent). This ensures that the silicone material meets the necessary safety requirements for contact with food. As a result, food-grade silicone tends to be more costly compared to its industrial counterparts.
Why is Silicone used in food applications?
Silicone rubber possesses several highly desirable properties, including:
Extreme temperature resistance: It maintains its shape and durability across a wide temperature range, from -60°C (-80 °F) to 230°C (450 °F).
Resistance to liquids, food oils, and chemicals: It prevents leakages and contamination by effectively resisting various liquids, food oils, and most chemicals.
Antifungal and non-stick properties: Silicone rubber reduces the risk of contamination, mold growth, and fungal decay due to its inherent antifungal and non-stick characteristics.
Flexibility for customization: Its flexibility allows for extrusion and molding, enabling the creation of custom sealing profiles suitable for a range of food applications.
Non-toxic and free of harmful fillers: Silicone rubber is non-toxic and does not contain harmful fillers like BPS and BPA, contributing to its food-safe status.
Durability against environmental elements: It withstands aging, weathering, and ozonation, even under challenging working conditions, thanks to its durable nature.
Longer lifespan compared to other organic elastomers: Silicone rubber degrades at a slower rate, resulting in FDA-approved food grade silicone having a longer lifespan.
Prevention of unwanted changes: Its food grade status helps prevent undesirable changes such as discoloration, odors, or other alterations that may render a product unsuitable for consumption.
It is important to note that not all silicone is suitable for food industry use. However, once approved by the FDA, food grade silicone exhibits these properties, making it a safe and non-toxic member of the silicone family, ideal for applications in the food and beverage industry.
Food Grade Silicone applications
Silicone finds diverse applications across various fields, including the kitchen. It is commonly used in cooking utensils due to its efficient heat conduction and non-reactive nature with food. In the kitchen, silicone serves several purposes, such as sealing containers and pans to prevent food from sticking, creating waterproof seals for baking or storing raw meat, and producing molds for ice cream. Additionally, silicone can function as an adhesive, sealant, or lubricant.
Silicone is an excellent choice for food storage, offering reusability, ease of storage, lightweightness, and durability. It can be utilized to store a wide range of items, including salads, soups, snacks, and water.
Silicone bakeware has its advantages, as it eliminates the need for greasing molds with butter or other fats. However, silicone molds may not always be suitable for all baking purposes. They work well for small cakes, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, macarons, and delicate pastries like Genoise and Ladyfingers. When baking larger cakes or bread with dough that rises significantly, the flexibility of silicone molds can lead to distortion. In such cases, it is preferable to use glass, aluminum, or ceramic bakeware.
In the realm of artistic cake-making, silicone molds are considered the gold standard. Pastry shops in Paris, France, often rely on silicone molds to create their exquisite and intricate pastries. Silicone molds are highly versatile, featuring a vast array of designs that can elevate a simple recipe to a sophisticated pastry.
In addition, food-grade silicone finds extensive use across various applications within the food industry, including:
- Gaskets for food processing machinery
- Food transfer tubing
- Dairy tubing and fluid handling
- Vending tubing
- Brewery tubing and seals
- Antimicrobial belting
- Commercial oven seals
- Coffee machine tubing
- Gaskets for food-grade beverages
- Vibration pads
- Electrical insulators
You are looking for a suitable silicone for your production machinery and goods, contact A1 Silicones for advice
So why choose silicone over plastic?
Plastic is composed of carcinogenic and endocrine/hormone disrupting chemicals, which, when present in certain amounts, can lead to adverse effects. In contrast, silicone is chemically inert, non-toxic, and does not release harmful substances into food or beverages.
Plastic, despite its long lifespan (approximately 450 years on average), is prone to damage such as scratches and cracks, often necessitating disposal within a few years. We’ve all experienced plastic sandwich or Tupperware boxes that quickly deteriorate, with cracked lids or discolored containers. On the other hand, silicone is a durable and flexible material that can withstand extreme temperatures without degradation.
Plastic surfaces, particularly when scratched, can harbor germs and bacteria. In contrast, silicone is hypoallergenic and does not provide a breeding ground for bacteria. Its smooth and non-porous nature inhibits bacterial growth, making it a hygienic choice.
In summary, silicone offers a safer and more durable alternative to plastic, as it is chemically inert, long-lasting, and resistant to bacterial contamination.
How do I distinguish ordinary silicone and food-grade silicone?
Food grade silicone is commonly used in silicone kitchen utensils, baby pacifiers, drinking cups, baby sippy cups, and other similar products. The production cost of regular qualified silica gel items is much higher compared to food grade silicone due to the superior quality. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous manufacturers choose to use ordinary silica gel in the production of water cups, kitchen utensils, baby pacifiers, etc., which come into contact with our food, as a means to cut costs and compromise on quality. These products not only fail to meet quality standards but also pose risks to our health. So, how can we differentiate between ordinary silica gel and food grade silica gel? Drawing from 13 years of experience in the silicone industry, A1 Silicones shares a few simple methods for distinguishing between the two.
Take the silicone product and give it a sniff. If there is a noticeable smell, it indicates that it is not food grade but rather ordinary silica gel. However, it’s important to note that some food-grade silica gels may have a slight odor, which does not affect their quality or safety. In such cases, the odor will dissipate naturally over time.
Food grade silicone exhibits excellent toughness and elasticity. It is resistant to permanent deformation caused by external forces and has a smoother feel when touched. In contrast, ordinary silicone products are easily deformed and have a rougher texture.
Hard Pull Test:
This is a simple method. Select a spot on the silicone product and pull hard on both sides with your hands. If you observe any whitening, it indicates the presence of ordinary silica gel. On the other hand, if there is no whitening, it signifies the use of food-grade silicone.
By employing these methods, you can effectively identify whether a product is made of ordinary silica gel or food grade silicone, ensuring you make informed choices about the products you use.
Hope the article will help you understand more about food grade silicone. If you have any questions about silicone or want to order, please contact A1 Silicone for advice.
A1 Silicones is a genuine global distributor of silicone products of major brands such as Momentive, Bostik, Shin-Etsu,…