How important is "food safe"?
August 1, 2020 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I hear a lot of talk about food-safe plastics and need to know, how much do I need to care? I mean I've chewed so much random plastic in my life from pen-lids to action figures, how seriously do I need to take this? The specific case I am concerned about in this case is that I want to press something against the top of freshly poured chocolates (in a food safe mould) to leave a mark.
posted by Iteki to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you going to sell it or give it to other people? The primary concern with "food-unsafe" plastic is leaching from contact over time, or the plastic destabilizing when heated or exposed to high-acid or high-alkaline contents. If you're making these for yourself, a few seconds of contact sounds to be within your acceptable tolerance, which it would be for me as well. Most of us have been exposed to plenty unsafe plastic (or in any case plastic with components that have some kind of level of exposure above which is considered unsafe) in our lives, but some people don't want any more than they've had already.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:39 PM on August 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't worry about the momentary contact with a piece of plastic at all. Just wash it first. It's fine. (Echo what above commenter says - the concern for plastics has to do with leaching over time and/or upon heating.)

(This is different of course from (for instance) using a toxic leaf or flower to press an impression on a chocolate. But you're not doing that. You're using a just washed piece of plastic. Again: it's fine.)

(ETA - wait, you're actually using it on warm chocolate and waiting for it to harden? I wouldn't do this if you're selling it. Otherwise, meh.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:22 PM on August 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’m just going to drop in here that I knew a professional pastry chef who used bubble wrap to make impressions in buttercream. However, you do have to consider that the chocolate will be warm to hot when you pour it. Is the plastic something you could form some plastic wrap to and then do the stamping? Also, who will be eating this thing? That’s an important factor. I’d eat something like this, but I wouldn’t make anyone else do it.
posted by Night_owl at 5:29 PM on August 1, 2020

I'll throw this in in case it's relevant because I notice you're not being specific about your stamp.

If you're thinking of 3D printing something that might be a different answer to the ones you have so far. I don't know what it is that makes some printing plastics unsafe, but it won't necessarily work the same as, say, BPA, which is what people usually are considering when they talk about unsafe plastics. BPA leaches over time, as people have said, but that is a property specific to BPA-carrying plastics we usually associate with food.

The same would apply to other plastic objects on a case by case basis. Lego: probably safe or all our toddlers would be dead; random industrial waste: probably not. Might take a bit more info to get a specific answer.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:20 PM on August 1, 2020

I'm not looking for alternatives thanks, the bubble-wrap example above is a good one. And yes this is for other people, I've stated my own risk tolerance above. Am asking about actual risk in eating say 3 chocolates that had bubblewrap pressed into them after having been poured in the mould.
If I could see the materials data-sheet on the plastic, what should I look out for?
posted by Iteki at 4:37 AM on August 2, 2020

[A few comments deleted here. Let's focus on addressing Iteki's question about the risk factors of using or not using "food safe" materials. ]
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 4:55 AM on August 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bubble Wrap, for example, is made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), or #4 plastic, which would probably be ok to use, but I would wash it. Stuff manufactured for packaging and non food uses may not necessarily be as clean as you would want it for food use, even fresh off the roll.

Here is some of the good stuff

Here is some of the bad stuff:
Risky Plastics Not Safe for Food and Drink:
These plastics may leach or have hazardous ingredients:

#3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) carcinogens during manufacture and incineration
#6 PS (polystyrene) possible carcinogen
#7 PC (usually polycarbonate, sometimes labeled PC) may leach BPA (Bisphenol-A)
posted by gudrun at 7:58 AM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding that if the food is hot or warm, that is a different question than food that is cold. Harvard Medical School says never to let hot foods contact any plastic, even "food-safe," including not heating foods in plastic containers in the microwave. Of course many of us grew up eating food heated in plastic, or poured into plastic while hot. Many of us also have cancer and struggle with infertility, endometriosis, obesity/metabolic issues, etc.

Acidic and oily/fatty foods are also more like to have chemicals leach into them from the plastics they contact, though that might be more relevant if they sat in plastic for a long time.

In conclusion: I would not press any plastic, "food-safe" or not, against your hot/warm chocolate.
posted by amaire at 11:59 AM on August 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

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