Food Safe Plastics by the Number

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Here’s a page to print out and keep in your Survival Mom reference binder.  Which types of plastic containers are safe for food storage and which aren’t?  It’s a common question, and rather than answer individual questions, I tracked down a summary of information that will help you determine which types of containers to use for storage purposes and which to avoid.

Types Of Plastic

In the United States, the following codes represent the seven categories of plastic used in nearly all plastic containers and product packaging:

1 - PET PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is a clear, tough polymer with exceptional gas and moisture barrier properties. PET’s ability to contain carbon dioxide (carbonation) makes it ideal for use in soft drink bottles. Examples: Soft drink bottles, detergent bottles
2 - HDPE HDPE (high density polyethylene) is used in milk, juice and water containers in order to take advantage of its excellent protective barrier properties. Its chemical resistance properties also make it well suited for items such as containers for household chemicals and detergents. Most five gallon food buckets are made from HDPE.Examples: Milk bottles, shopping bags
3 - V Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) provides excellent clarity, puncture resistance and cling. As a film, vinyl can breathe just the right amount, making it ideal for packaging fresh meats that require oxygen to ensure a bright red surface while maintaining an acceptable shelf life.Examples: Plastic food wrap, shrink wrap, garden hoses, shoe soles
4 - LDPE LDPE (low density polyethylene) offers clarity and flexibility. It is used to make bottles that require flexibility. To take advantage of its strength and toughness in film form, it is used to produce grocery bags and garbage bags, shrink and stretch film, and coating for milk cartons.Examples: Squeeze bottles, dry cleaning bags
5 - PP PP (polypropylene) has high tensile strength, making it ideal for use in caps and lids that have to hold tightly on to threaded openings. Because of its high melting point, polypropylene can be hot-filled with products designed to cool in bottles, including ketchup and syrup. It is also used for products that need to be incubated, such as yogurt. Many Cambo, Tupperware and Rubbermaid food storage containers are made from PP.Examples: Bottle caps, take-out food containers, drinking straws
6 - PS PS (polystyrene), in its crystalline form, is a colorless plastic that can be clear and hard. It can also be foamed to provide exceptional insulation properties. Foamed or expanded polystyrene (EPS) is used for products such as meat trays, egg cartons and coffee cups. It is also used for packaging and protecting appliances, electronics and other sensitive products. Examples: Plastic foam, packing peanuts, coat hangers
7 - Other Other denotes plastics made from other types of resin or from several resins mixed together. These usually cannot be recycled.

Another important type of plastic is polycarbonate, a clear shatter-resistant material used in restaurant food storage containers and the Rubbermaid Premier line of stain-resistant home food storage containers.  Baby bottles and most 5-gallon water containers are made from polycarbonate.




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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

9 thoughts on “Food Safe Plastics by the Number”

  1. "In summary, categories 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 are considered to be food safe." This is NOT true. There are HDPE (2) white buckets that are manufactured as food safe, and there are those made with a cheaper process for utility use. The following note comes from the page referenced above: "There is a common misconception that all containers made of white plastic or HDPE plastic bearing the HDPE "2" plastic symbol symbol are food grade containers. This is not true." I have made this mistake myself and packed twenty buckets obtained cheaply at Lowe's, which I must now replace. Another option which I have started using as my stores increase is mylar bags with oxygen absorbers in food grade 55 gallon drums. These barrels with removable tops, which usually contained orange or apple juice, or other food ingredients (as indicated by the sticker on the outside), can be bought for $8-10 and go a lot further than buckets. The only negative I have found are difficulty in moving them around, as they will weigh 300-450 pounds when filled. However, that would make it more difficult for a hit and run thief to carry off all of your food stores, and there is NO chance that a rat could chew through the steel.

    1. Steven, thanks for the reminder about the category 2 plastic. What I had in mind was using it in conjunction with mylar bags, but you're right. On its own, it isn't food safe. Thanks! I made the correction and am going to put this information in a download available at the resources tab at the top of my blog.

    2. You could put multiple things in each barrel. It would indeed make it harder for a 'hit and run'. If they're metal I wonder how good a Faraday cage they make? Lol. I've been working on my physics homework too long, I think. it is a good idea though, and you're right it would deter rodents and, in my case, pets.

  2. #7 plastic – polycarbonate – contains BPA which can leach into your food and causes problems (that's why they've changed up baby bottles – BPA has been banned from most children's products in Canada because it's toxic.) Our own governmental agencies (NIH, EPA) have linked it to cancer, early puberty in girls, adverse neurological effects, and it's a known endocrine disrupter.

    So I wouldn't consider #7 to be food safe.

  3. #2 HDPE buckets, that originally contained food products, like those I get from my bakery that contained fillings, etc., are food safe. So are the #2 HDPE Tropicana OJ containers that I wash, disinfect, and use for long term water storage. Please check with the LDS experts and you'll see that this is true. I really enjoy your blog but I think you missed the mark on this one.

  4. The 2 liter soda and 64 out juice bottles (PETE #!) have become my faves. I've stored everything from water to beans, rice, salt, sugar, and even cornmeal and stuffing mix. Toss in an O2 (or just desiccant for sugar) and you're good to go! I have them stacked on their sides with the ingredients labeled on the lids and instructions on the side.

    One of our first storage adventures was buying 4 of the orange 5 gallon buckets, and lids, (HDPE #2) from Home Depot. We put 50 lbs. of (each) pinto beans and white rice inside 5 gallon Mylar bags, sealed them w/ 2000 cc O2 packs in side the buckets. They're just sitting at the bottom of MomMart and are our long term insurance. Feels good!


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