In the food industry, business continuity depends on compliance with safety regulations. In keeping your food clean, what matters is the surfaces it touches. Food-grade silicone is one material that’s very safe for food applications, and it’s cost-effective at the same time. Let’s take a deeper look at what silicone is and how it is used in food applications.
What Is Silicone?
Silicone is a synthetic polymer that is non-porous, which makes it ideal for long-term use as a surface or container for food preparation and processing. Unlike plastic, wood and other porous materials, silicone is able to be sanitized. It’s also resistant to abrasive chemicals and resistant to heat and temperature changes. Silicone is used to make rubber and plastics, and it’s sometimes used to make polishes and lubricants.
Types of Silicone
Silicone is a versatile material that comes in both liquid and solid (known as gum stock) forms for use in a wide range of applications. The consistency of silicone is measured based on a hardness scale of 10 to 80 known as Shore A. The lower it is, the more silicone is present, and more soft and liquidy the material is. The higher it is on the scale, the more filler it contains. Filler feels harder, but it can make silicone stronger and more durable.
Liquid silicone can be molded and heat cured to take any shape. With a petroleum jelly type of consistency, it’s very smooth and oily. Applications demanding accuracy for custom parts typically require liquid silicone. One example of a product made with liquid silicone is silicone o-rings. They’re aerospace-grade seals because liquid silicone is able to be injection-molded for the highest level of precision. Silicone molds used for baking are also made with liquid silicone and injection-molded into a precise shape.
Gum stock has more of a putty consistency. It can also be molded and heat cured to any shape, but the material you end up with will always have more firmness and less “give” to it. That’s because gum stock has fillers that not only make it less expensive, but also more durable. Gum stock silicone can still be 100 percent food-grade silicone. It has the consistency of a thick putty, so it’s not moldable like liquid silicone. However, it’s used in medical implants and prosthetics.
Medical-grade silicone is silicone that is tested and certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for purity. It’s used in short-term and long-term breast implants and other implants. Medical-grade silicone is ideal for any application that makes direct contact with the body, such as menstrual cups.
Food-grade silicone is silicone that’s safe for food applications, such as baking, freezing and food containment or processing. This is what you need to meet FDA standards if you’re a food business. Food-grade silicone is also what’s used to make baby toys or teethers, children’s sippy cups and straws, and silicone-based lubricants.
Silicone Is the Safest Choice for Food Applications
To ensure you meet FDA standards and keep your customers safe, choose silicone materials for the parts of your processing area that make direct contact with food or drinks. Silicone is able to be sterilized, it doesn’t leach any toxins into food and it’s able to withstand very high (and very low) temperatures. You can freeze it, you can bake it at 450 degrees and use it for long-term food storage. With all the benefits it provides, silicone has become an industry-standard among food-service businesses.