Silicone is a very finicky material. For all its benefits, it is beyond important that you be careful with it whenever you work with the material.
However, a recent innovation in silicone design has made it possible for certain forms of the material to be safe for consumption. To help understand how this seemingly unconventional material has suddenly become a hit in the cooking space, we will look into food grade silicone more closely.
Food Grade Silicone: What Makes Up This Transformative Material?
So, let’s get to it then – what is food grade silicone?
There is no mystery to what silicone is – a polymer with a broad range of items, but with a major base of oxygen and silicon. Along with materials like hydrogen and carbon, these elements create silicone – one of the most versatile and functional materials on the planet.
Now, because it comes with hydrogen and carbon as part of its constituents, silicone easily qualifies as a hydrocarbon. And, as many of us know, hydrocarbons shouldn’t be anywhere close to food. The chemical reactions that go into making the product are significantly dangerous, and the last thing you want is to get injured due to contact.
However, advancements in science have led to the development of a new form of silicone that can come in contact with food without having any issues. Here, you have a polymer that isn’t toxic and which doesn’t have any petroleum-based polymers.
To be created, food grade silicone goes through several critical manufacturing processes. It is also important for it to meet stringent regulatory and safety requirements – all of which we will look into in later sections.
Understanding Why Food Grade Silicone Works So Well
In general, the composition of food-grade silicone doesn’t vary so much from traditional silicone. You have the usual materials, which include:
- Silicon (Si): Here is the base element that serves as the backbone of any silicone variant. It offers operational flexibility and functional stability, while also ensuring that the material easily resists heat.
- Oxygen (O): With oxygen atoms, you can easily bridge between the primary silicon atoms in the siloxane bond (–Si–O–). The element plays a significant role, ensuring that silicone remains inert and can also optimize heat resistance.
- Hydrogen (H): To be fair, hydrogen is only existent in small amounts of silicone. These atoms complete the chemical structure, providing strength and form to the material.
- Carbon (C): Carbon is another element that you see in small amounts for any food grade silicon product. Its goal primarily is to offer more operational flexibility and stability to the material, thus improving its properties.
Food Grade Silicon: Its Chemical Properties
You might look at the structure of food grade silicone and believe that it is simple. However, this doesn’t mean that the material isn’t strong in its own right. To demonstrate that, here are some of its most interesting chemical properties:
- Inertness: Generally, food grade silicone doesn’t interact with others. So, if you place it in food, it will barely have any effect. It doesn’t alter the composition of the food, as well as its features – smell, taste, color, etc.
- Heat Resistance: Just as the traditional material, any food grade silicone grease or modifications added will be able to resist heat perfectly.
- Cold Temperature Resistance: Just as it does when faced with significant heat, food grade silicone will also hold its own when you subject it to significantly low temperatures. Place it in a fridge or freezer, and it will maintain its elasticity and flexibility without becoming brittle.
- Water & Moisture Resistance: The food grade silicone material doesn’t let water or moisture in. So, if you’re looking to store your food in cold storage, you can use a food grade silicone material to wrap it and rest assured that water won’t get anywhere in there to breed mold or bacteria.
- Chemical stability: You can count on food grade silicone not to be deteriorated by oils, chemicals, fats, and other compounds or elements that are developed as part of the cooking process. It does not degrade or break down when exposed to these substances, ensuring its integrity and safety.
- Electrical Insulation Capabilities: Another interesting factor that sees food grade silicone lubricant and other associated materials become so popular is its electrical insulation properties. Food grade silicone doesn’t conduct electric current, meaning that it can be used for food industry operations that require electrical applications – sealine, insulation, and more.
- UV and ozone resistance: Food grade silicone has good resistance to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and ozone exposure. You could leave it outdoors as much as you want without worrying about degradation from any natural elements.
Physical Features Of Food Grade Silicone
For a material like food grade silicone, the physical properties matter just as much as the chemical ones when you’re trying to answer the question, “Is food grade silicone safe?”
So, we’ve outlined some of the major features that help this material be as versatile as it is:
- Material Elasticity: In its very nature, this material provides a ton of elasticity. This means that manufacturers can mold it into whatever shape or size they want, allowing it to fit different purposes. The material is capable of being stretched and even returning to its original form without undergoing any form of deformation. And, as such, it can be used in different industries without any issue.
- Optimally Soft Texture: You will also notice some softness in the texture of food grade silicone. This makes the material much more tender on food and its surfaces, while also helping it to release mold and reduce the risk of scratching any delicate food surfaces.
- Color Properties & Transparency: You won’t have issues finding food grade silicone in different colors. In fact, one of the most fascinating parts about the material is that you can find it in opaque and transparent variants. With the transparent colors, you can enjoy optimal visibility of the food it holds. At the same time, colored silicone can be used to enhance aesthetic features and properties – as well as to differentiate between foods.
- Non-Stick Surface: One of the most interesting parts about food grade silicone is that it has a surface that doesn’t stick. So, food placed into a food grade silicone container – such as a baking mat or some other kitchen utensil – won’t stick to it. You don’t need extra greasing or oiling when using food grade silicone for molds, so the process is much more seamless.
- Thermal Conductivity: For all its benefits, silicone doesn’t conduct heat so well. And, that property extends to food grade silicone. The material comes with low thermal conductivity, which means it does not transfer heat quickly. This property makes it safe to handle hot objects without burning or scalding oneself and provides insulation in applications such as oven mitts and pot holders.
- Lightweight: With its lightweight build, food grade silicone is easily handled and maneuvered while being prepared or used. You can enjoy ease and comfort, regardless of what you use it for.
- Resistance to Abrasion and Tear: Food grade silicone is one tough material. It can take significant levels of contact without wearing or tearing, so anything it is used to make will stand the test of time.
- Water Repellency: As we explained earlier, food grade silicone doesn’t let water in. With food grade silicone tubing or any other material, water or moisture absorption will be cut significantly.
Food Grade Silicone: Applications In The Food Industry
Ever seen a material come with so many benefits and not get massive adoption? Of course, not! Today, food grade silicone is used for so many things in the culinary space. The material is one of the most versatile available, with functionalities including the following:
- Liners & Baking Mats: These items take advantage of the material’s non-stick feature, providing a perfect surface for baking just about anything. With them, you don’t need to grease anything, meaning that cleanup will be much easier.
- Cooking olds and Bakeware: With a food grade silicone mold kit, you can easily make things like cakes, candies, and several other confections. The material is very flexible, and it makes it easy for you to clear your product from the existing mold.
- General Cooking Tools & Utensils: Silicone can also be used to make spatulas, brushes, and several other equipment used in the kitchen. All of these are heat-resistant, providing other benefits like scratch proofing and non-stick features. Whether for dipping, mixing, or stirring food, these products work like clockwork.
- Oven Mitts and Pot Holders: Silicone oven mitts and pot holders provide heat resistance, allowing users to handle hot cookware and bakeware safely.
- Food Storage Containers and Lids: Storage is a key component of any cooking operation. So, it should come as no much of a surprise that this material also helps manufacturers of storage containers to create the safest and most functional products available. These containers offer a leak and moisture-proof way to store food, while also ensuring that you can store your food in fridges without fearing the growth of mold.
- Baby Products: Food grade silicone has also become popular in developing baby pacifiers, nipples, and other teething toys for toddlers. They are entirely safe, and they also don’t come with any possible hazards to your child. Besides this, they are incredibly soft and flexible.
- Kitchen Sealants and Gaskets: Food grade silicone helps in making food grade silicone sealant options and gaskets for food processing machinery. These sealants can be used in different appliances, ranging from mixers and blenders to coffee makers and more. As expected, their job is to ensure that there are no leaks in food making or storage.
- Dairy Tubing & Fluid Handling: Fluids are an important part of the overall food manufacturing process. And, with food grade silicone, you can create tubes that make it easy to transfer things like dairy, water, and other materials without contamination. For this functionality, the material’s resistance to high and low temperatures and its non-reactive nature comes in very handy.
- Cooking Sheets and Pan Liners: Silicone cooking sheets and pan liners provide a non-stick surface for roasting, baking, and cooking..
- Commercial Oven Seals: High-scale food processing plants need to ensure safety and the quality of everything being made at every point. This is why many of them rely on this material for their operations. It can be a component in the development of several materials that will be compatible with a high-scale cooking or baking process, ensuring that your food doesn’t run the risk of contamination at all.
- Ice Cube Trays and Molds: One of the biggest requirements for ice cube trays is flexibility. With FDA food grade silicone, you can easily make flexible molds and trays, making it easy to remove shaped ice without breaking it. Remember – its safety also means that you can use the ice without fear for your health.
- Food Transfer Tubing: Need to take food from one point to the other in a processing plant? Food grade silicone can be used to manufacture tubing that can help make this happen.
- Electrical Insulators: With its ability to withstand electrical current, food grade high temp silicone can be used in the development of insulators for food processing plants and machinery.
- O-rings: One of the biggest points of debate in the food grade silicone vs regular silicone debate is their use in developing o-rings. You can easily use food grade silicone grease for o-ring making, reducing friction between moving parts of food processing machinery and optimizing efficiency.
Why Food Manufacturers Should Use This Material
Considering the fact that food grade silicone is being used in so many industries, you might be wondering why this is so. Well, below are some of the material’s benefits that make it so versatile in operation:
- Overall Safety: Well, the name pretty much says it all. Anyone who makes food grade silicone does so with the intention of using it with food. So, it should come as no surprise that the material needs to be as safe and reliable as possible.
The material doesn’t release any harmful toxins or chemicals when it is placed in contact with food or beverages, and its odorless and tasteless nature means that it won’t have any effect on the overall quality of your food.
- Heat Resistance: As we explained earlier, food grade silicone rubber comes with a heat-resistant build. So, it holds its own against high temperatures without deforming or melting. This property makes it especially great for use in high-temperature cooking products and methods.
- Flexibility and Durability: For manufacturers, this means that the material can easily be shaped and molded into different forms over time, while also resisting warping, cracking, and any structural degradation.
- Non-Stick Properties: Sticking is one issue that many chefs and cooks face. The moment food is placed on a mat or a plate, there’s a chance that it’ll stick to it, making the separation process inconvenient and messy. Food grade silicone is immune to this, meaning that you don’t need any oiling or greasing to get food off its surface. This makes the material ideal for making different cooking utensils.
- Easy to Clean: When you’re done making your meal, the absolute last thing you want is to have to do a lot of cleaning. This is another area where food grade silicone shines. The material can be washed using a dishwasher, and you can wipe it clean with no more than soap and water. With its non-stick surface, cleaning should also be a breeze.
- Operational Versatility: Today, there’s almost nothing you can’t make with food grade silicone. From baby products to cooking utensils and other apparatus, the material is very versatile in its operation.
- Resistance to Chemicals and Moisture: Food grade liquid silicone will also maintain its form if it comes in contact with chemicals, acids, oils, and moisture that is easily found in the kitchen. It won’t degrade upon contact, meaning that it can serve for a very long time.
- Food Preservation: We already covered the fact that any storage material made with silicone will be properly tight. So, in the culinary space, you can easily find this material being used to create flasks and other tools that help preserve food. It also resists absorption of odors and flavors from food, maintaining the integrity of stored items.
- Reusability: For users who worry about long-term viability, consider this; food grade silicone can be reused time and again. Its eco-friendly build also means that it is great for sustainability, thus cutting the need for single-use items and contributing to a sustainable kitchen layout.
Food Grade Silicone: Important Safety Standards To Consider
At this point, we don’t think that there’s anyone else who’s arguing about the benefits and advantages of food grade silicone for culinary purposes. However, considering that the material will need to be used along with food, it is important to monitor how it operates and is applied.
To help provide some clarity to the industry, regulators across the board have shared guidelines that users of this material need to keep in mind when working with it. So, as you search for where to buy food grade silicone, you might want to consider these guides:
FDA Regulations in the United States
As long as it concerns consumption and is within the framework of the United States, then you would need to answer to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This arm of the government ensures that anything that is being consumed – whether food or drugs – within the country is done so in a safe and harm-free environment. And, with this material being especially prominent, it should come as no surprise that the agency has already set standards for its application.
Here are some important guidelines from the FDA that you want to keep an eye on:
- Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Status: All in all, the FDA considers food grade silicone to be a GRAS. So, the agency essentially considers it to be safe for contact with food.
- FDA Regulation 21 CFR 177.2600: One of the most important regulations from the FDA is 21 CFR 177.2600, which addresses the use of rubber articles with food. It covers packaging, food processing, and even equipment handling.
- Extractables and Leachables: The FDA also requires that silicone should be tested for possible leachables and extractables before it is put in contact with food. These tests assess the possibility of substance migrations from the silicone to the food, thus examining the material’s overall safety.
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): Food grade silicone manufacturers USA are also expected to follow GMPs in the production of their products. These standards cover hygiene, quality control measures, and much more.
- Specific Use Limitations: In some cases, you might find specific use limitations for your food grade silicone material. For instance, some products have significantly high temperature restrictions while being used with specific beverages and other food types.
- Color Additives: If you will be adding color additives to improve the overall look of your food grade silicone, then you need to be sure that the material still falls within the FDA’s guidelines for them. Additives should be approved for use in culinary contact applications, and they need to be clear of any possible health risks.
European Union Standards
The United States isn’t the only region where the use of materials like food grade silicone is highly scrutinized. European authorities also do a great deal to make sure that anyone who wants to use this material does so within a stringent framework, and as expected, the regulations are in place to ensure that the material is safe when it comes in contact with food overall.
Below, you can find some of the most significant product quality standards that manufacturers and users in the Eurozone area need to keep in mind when dealing with this highly popu;ar material:
- Framework Regulation: Just as you would find with several other health regulatory bodies, the EU has also outlined its guidelines for this material. The document – called Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 or the “Framework Regulation” – sets out all of the general principles for ensuring the safety of food grade silicone when it comes in contact with food.
- Specific Migration Limits: In general, the EU has established SMLs for substances that might move from food grade silicone into food. These limits ensure that the movement of potentially harmful substances is well below acceptable levels, and it is important for your food grade silicone rubber materials to comply.
- EU Regulation 10/2011: Another critical law to follow is the EU Regulation 10/2011. This regulation particularly addresses articles and plastic materials that are intended to come in contact with food. To be fair, the regulation speaks more to the application of material like plastics. However, several parts of it could also be adapted to relate to food grade silicone and its contact with food in general.
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): Manufacturers and users in the European region are expected to follow good manufacturing practices when it comes to food grade silicone manufacturing. These standards cover hygiene, cleanliness, and more to ensure the sustainability and overall safety of the products.
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Opinions: The European Food Safety Authority has shared several of its scientific opinions to inform regulatory decisions on food grade silicone rubber and other materials that might come in contact with food. Understanding these opinions will go a long way in ensuring overall compliance.
- European Harmonized Standards: The EU may also adopt European harmonized standards that provide guidelines and technical specifications for food contact materials. These standards help ensure consistency and harmonization across member states.
Keeping an eye on these standards is important for users of food grade silicone in the food industry. Fortunately, we at WeProFab have a clear understanding of these guidelines and are able to ensure that the food grade silicone you get from us is in compliance with even the most stringent regulations.
Choosing Food Grade Silicone? Remember These Guidelines
As you select food grade silicone products, you want to keep several factors in mind to ensure the suitability of your products for your intended purpose. Some of these important factors include:
- Regulatory Compliance: We already covered some of the most important regulations that need to be adhered to. Depending on where you are, make sure that your product follows these guidelines and is in compliance.
- Food Contact Certification: You should also watch out for food contact certifications from reputable food testing organizations, which offer assurance that your food grade silicone has been tested. At WeProFab, this is one of the things we lookout for the most when making our food grade silicone.
- Material Specifications: Consider the exact specifications from the manufacturer. At WeProFab, we will provide information on the type of silicone used, the material composition, and the possible presence of fillers and additives in the product.
- Temperature Resistance: This factor is key as it determines how well the food grade silicone will work for your specific functionality. Think about how much heat or cold you’ll be subjecting the food grade silicone to, as well as its compatibility with the process.
- Non-Toxicity: The entire essence of this material is to prevent the transfer of any dangerous materials to your food. So, you want to take special care and see to this. At WeProFab, we ensure that our food grade silicone emits no toxins or harmful chemicals that could compromise the quality and integrity of your food.
- Product Durability & Quality: Of course, it is important to ensure that the food grade silicone product itself is of the highest quality. Assess it for flexibility, strength, and resistance to punctures or tears. And, check for warranties to protect your bottom line.
- Ease of Cleaning: This might not be the most important thing on your list, but it’s always great to make sure that your food grade silicone is easy to clean. Depending on the intended use, make sure that cleaning it is a breeze.
Finally, ensure that the brand you’re working with here is reputable. Fortunately, we at WeProFab understand the need to ensure adherence to regulatory compliance and we do our due diligence to ensure that all of our food grade silicone products are up to code.
We’re one of the most reputable providers of food grade silicone in the market, and we will be able to provide the best, highest-quality food grade silicone product available.
Is Food Grade Silicone Ideal For Everything?
The suitability of food grade silicone for culinary applications can’t possibly be overstated at this point. However, it is important to keep in mind that the material does have its possible shortcomings. Some of those include:
- Lack of Rigidity: In general, silicone rubber isn’t so rigid. For applications where you need a stiff and rigid material, this might not be the best bet for you.
- Lower Thermal Conductivity: Food grade silicone also doesn’t have the best thermal conductivity – especially compared to a few other competing materials; such as rubber. While you can easily handle hot objects using silicone, it also doesn’t efficiently transfer heat during cooking operations. When using silicone bakeware, you might need to adjust cooking temperatures or times to accommodate temperature imbalances.
- Not Suitable for High-Temperature Frying: Food grade silicone will easily withstand high temperatures. However, we won’t recommend that you use it in direct contact with open flames. This is because extended exposure to overly high temperatures can cause degradation.
- Potential for Mechanical Damage: While silicone is very durable,it isn’t entirely immune to mechanical damage. Overly sharp objects can tear it, and the material can buckle under excessive force. To wit, we recommend taking care with it to avoid excessive damage.
- Potential for Staining: While you enjoy the non-stick properties of food grade silicone, the material can still be prone to staining when you place it in contact with acidic foods or foods with strong colors. Tomato sauce and several other spices could stain it and cause significant discoloration.
- Potential for Odor Absorption: Silicone has the risk of absorbing smells from ingredients or foods that have intense scents. This could result in lingering odors that you might have a bit more of a hard time getting out.
These limitations aren’t necessarily damaging to the prospect of food grade silicone. However, it is important to be careful with the material if you really hope to optimize its use.
Today, the use of food grade silicone continues to spread. And, it’s entirely understandable why the material would be so popular among culinary experts. Considering that food is one of the most important things in the world, the use of food grade silicone has continued to grow.
At WeProFab, our job is to ensure that you get the best quality food grade silicone available. Just as well, feel free to contact us if you need any further consultations on how to get the most out of your food grade silicone.
Is food grade BPA free?
Ideally, a product that is food grade should be free of Bisphenol A – a chemical that has been linked with several health issues affecting different organs in the body. However, while many food grade products claim to be BPA-free, it is important to do your own research.
This is why you need to work with a specialized and reputable manufacturer like WeProFab. Our claims are true and verifiable, and we can even show proof.
How much temperature can food grade silicone take?
As it is with many materials, there is no overarching answer for this metric. For instance, most people will give a food grade silicone temperature range to be something along the lines of 450°F (232°C). However, the interesting thing is that there have been situations where the material was seen to handle even higher temperatures without losing its form.
At the end of the day, it all depends on what you’re looking to achieve with the material.