To avoid contamination, food and beverage handling and processing equipment is generally fabricated from materials like stainless steel. Gaskets can’t be avoided though, and some will come into contact with the products being manufactured. When this is the case it’s essential they are made from gasket material considered food grade.
The FDA publishes a long list of substances that can safely be included in elastomeric (rubber-like) gaskets: it’s in 21 CFR 177.2600. However, relating that to common gasket materials is no easy task. Asking a gasket material supplier for their expert advice and recommendations is a better approach. Here’s what you should know.
Food-Grade Material Choices
Commonly used gasket materials are also available in grades considered food-safe. That means material choice is dictated by what the application needs. Only once temperature, environment, media and pressure, (summarized by the acronym TEMP,) are known do you need to add the “food grade” requirement.
Silicone is often the first choice when food grade is required. It’s an excellent gasket material with a wide temperature range, low compression set, good strength and elasticity and resistance to many chemicals. In some applications though it may be overkill. Nitrile, neoprene, EPDM, Gylon®, Viton® and PTFE are alternatives that may perform better while possibly saving money.
Not Necessarily White
An absence of color-adding substances mean food-grade gasket materials are usually white. However, there are alternatives. Food-grade EPDM for example is available in black, and food-grade silicone may be translucent or other colors.
The bottom line is, don’t assume your food-grade gasket material must be white. If you need something else, ask us.
Contact is the Important Point
Consider food-grade material mandatory for gaskets coming into contact with food. Elsewhere in a food or beverage facility though, you can use other materials. To avoid confusion, a plant may decide to use only food-grade material everywhere, or implement appropriate controls to prevent misuse.
Seek Specialist Advice
If you’re responsible for food handling and processing equipment you need to know about food grade gasket materials. You could spend a lot of time on research, or you could come to us instead.