What Does it Mean to Be Food Safe?
Whether or not a material is food safe basically determines whether or not it can come into contact with food and not cause any adverse health effects. When different materials come into contact with each other, particles can migrate from one to the other, including on to the food we eat.
If plastic or other materials contain chemicals that are bad for our health, they can transfer those hazardous chemicals to our food and eventually to our bodies.
Here are a few different aspects to consider when discussing if a material is food safe or not.
- Length of contact plays a huge role. The safety of an item, for example, straws, plates, or containers, that has prolonged contact with food, is more important than something that has minimal or accidental contact.
- Temperature is another important consideration. Many items are stable at room temperature but tend to leach chemicals at higher temperatures. This is the idea behind not drinking out of plastic water bottle that was left outside on a hot day.
- Ability to be cleaned is an often left out consideration. If a product cannot be properly cleaned, it can foster harmful bacteria growth.
PETG is a Food Safe Material
PETG is generally considered a food safe material, and certain brands have received FDA approval.
You should always check the safety data sheet to get specifics about the brand you are using.
The fact PETG can be sterilized, as they do in the medical field, helps solidify it as food safe. This, along with it being fully recyclable, explains why it is already a common plastic for food containers.
What is PETG?
PETG, sometimes spelled PET-G, is a substance called Polyethylene terephthalate glycol. It is made from adding glycol to the common polyester Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET.
PET is a common thermoplastic polymer, but it is not ideal for many circumstances. Adding the glycol to form PETG helps make the end product stronger and less brittle.
For anyone without a science background, PETG is essentially a very commonly used type of plastic, accounting for 18% of global plastic production worldwide.
What are the Benefits of PETG?
PETG is clearer than other filaments, although some brands do come in color. It is easy to use and the strength and chemical resistance of PETG make it very moldable, giving manufacturers a lot of options.
It is a good choice if you are:
- Bending, or
- Using other such techniques.
It is also very sticky, which does make it a little harder to work with, but also means the different pieces are very adhesive.
The benefits of PETG do come with a bit of a higher price tag.
You can expect to pay up to $40 for a spool of PETG, depending on which brand you choose, making it generally more expensive than alternative filaments like PLA.
Having special additions to the PETG, such as carbon fiber reinforcement, can increase that price even more.
Why would so many people use PETG when it is oftentimes the more expensive option? It is because the creation of PETG brings many benefits over those other options, even other plastic types.
When you compare this price to some substances, such as acrylic or polycarbonate, it is actually cost-effective to use PETG.
Many aspects of PETG, such as its adhesive qualities and low shrinkage, also translate well into the 3D printing community.
As 3D printers have become more popular among average consumers, the uses of PETG are expanding even more.
Some brands are even modifying their PETG to better fit needs of the 3D printing community specifically, making the possibilities almost endless.
Anyone with access to a 3D printer can use PETG and is only limited by their creativity.
Common Uses of PETG
The strength and chemical structure of PETG make it a very versatile material. It is a common product used in high end manufacturing. It helps to produce synthetic fibers, which are then used to make the clothes we wear.
It is also a common material in the medical field, being used in packaging and medical implants.
So many products in the medical field require constant and intense sterilization, and PETG’s rigid structure make it a good choice.
Our food industry also uses a significant amount of PETG. It is a common option for food packaging and containers, as well as reusable water bottles.
The chemical composition of PETG also makes it easy to recycle and helps cut down on the single use plastic problem.
As PETG has become a more popular option in food packaging, it is important to consider how food safe it really is.
A 3D Printer is Not Always a Food Safe Producer
The ability to make custom designs and the creativity you can have with PETG on a 3D printer make it a great option for all sorts of food related designs.
You can come up with any container design or create any silverware you can imagine. However, PETG on a 3D printer can bring in to question whether it is still food safe.
It is important to remember that 3D printers print in layers. This means all end products will have small cracks and small ridges, regardless of how smooth it may look.
These tiny nooks and crannies can house harmful bacteria that could be transferred to any food it comes in contact with.
The 3D printer itself could also alter the food safe status of the end product.
There are a lot of different models of printers, made up of different materials which can potentially cause harm. If nozzles are made of brass, for example, it could transfer lead to the PETG.
To be on the safe side, every material the PETG touches should also be food safe, but that is a difficult necessity to meet.
Use PETG in a 3D Printer to Create Unique Pieces, but Not Food Accessories
If you are using PETG products from a manufacturer, they are considered to be food safe.
If you are using PETG products made from a 3D printer, it is likely less safe than you would want.
It can be a creative outlet, and items with a short length of contact to food are likely not hazardous. If you are set on making your own containers or utensils with PETG and a 3D printer, you should monitor every aspect of the printing process to be as safe as possible.