A.1 WHAT IS FOOD GRADE PACKAGING?
Q: OK, I'm ready to start my storage program. What should I put the food in?
A: You should use food grade packaging for storing anything you intend to eat. A food grade container is one that will not transfer noxious or toxic substances into the food it is holding. If you are uncertain whether a package type is food grade you can contact the manufacturer. Ask if that particular container is (US) FDA approved meaning that it is safe for food use. When inquiring be sure to specify the characteristics of the food you are storing; wet, dry, strongly acidic or alkaline, alcoholic or a high fat content. A container that is approved for one of the above types of food may not be approved for another.
The major functions of a food storage container are to:
#1. Protect its contents from outside environmental influences such as moisture, and oxygen, but possibly also heat or cold, light, insects and/or rodents as well.
#2. Prevent damage during handling and shipping.
#3. Establish and/or maintain microbiological stability. The container should not allow microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria from outside the container to come into contact with its contents. This is of critical importance to wet-pack foods such as canned vegetables, fruits and meats.
#4. Withstand the temperatures and pressures it will be exposed to. This is necessary if the contents are to be pasteurized or sterilized, either immediately before or after filling. It must not have any structural failures nor release any noxious or toxic breakdown chemicals into the food it contains. This is the reason why purpose built canning jars are recommended for home canning and mayonnaise jars aren't. The former are made heavier to withstand high temperatures and handling whereas the latter are not and have an increased risk of breakage if used for that purpose.
Virtually all containers used in home food preservation involving exposure to high temperatures are made of glass or metal, with the exception of some specialized "heat & seal" type of plastic bags. Glass can be used with any food type providing it is clean and in sound condition but the lids, particularly the liner inside the lid, may not be so you'll have to investigate suitability.
Metal cans are more specialized. They must be intended for food use and must also have a lining or coating of the inside that is suitable for the pH level of the food it will be in contact with.
If the foods are not subjected to some form of heat processing just before or after packaging your selection of container types for home use is a great deal larger. Virtually any kind of clean, sound glass jar can be used and many types of new metal containers. Several sorts of plastics have become popular. These various kinds of plastics are each suited for different purposes, making selection a more complex task.
A.1.1 WHERE DO I FIND FOOD GRADE CONTAINERS?
Food grade packaging is everywhere. Every time you go into the grocery store you are surrounded by it. Many well known companies such as Tupperware and Rubbermaid manufacture and sell empty packaging for the express purpose of containing repackaged foods. The kinds of containers you are interested in and the types of foods you want to put in those containers will dictate where you need to look for a particular packaging system.
For food storage purposes most folks are usually interested in five and six gallon plastic pails, glass jars from pint to gallon sizes, metal containers such as the institutional sized #10 cans, and Mylar or other high barrier property plastic bags. Those are the containers most often used, but virtually anything that can protect foods from outside environmental influences, safely contain something you're going to later eat and have a volume capacity large enough to be worthwhile may be used.
For glass jars, don't overlook flea markets, yard sales, thrift shops and similar places. Canning jars can sometimes be had for very little. Delicatessens, sub shops and restaurants of all sorts can be a source of one gallon glass jars formerly containing pickles, peppers, etc. If the lids are still in good condition, they are well suited to bulk storage and can be reused over and over.
Metal cans, by and large, are not reusable for good storage, but some companies might be able to sell you new cans. The traditional single use #10 can is only the beginning of what might be available with a little looking. Gallon sized or larger cans with double friction lids (like paint comes in) make excellent storage containers and some companies make them food safe. One gallon and larger cans with wide diameter screw caps are available from some companies as well. You might have seen some of these holding edible oils, soy sauce, honey and other liquid food. If they come with a cap that will seal air tight they would be well suited for bulk storage of grains and legumes, particularly if they come in a four to six gallon size.
Pick up you local phone book, log on to your favorite search engine or head to your local public, college or university library and explore the possibilities. Make it clear that what you want must be FDA approved and be up front about how many you need or can deal with. If one company won't deal with you, try another. You'll eventually get what you want.
From: Denis DeFigueiredo firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally posted in: rec.food.preserving
I called Berlin [eds. note, a plastic container mfgr.] 1-800- 4-BERLIN and spoke to them, plus an outfit called Kirk Container (they manufactured some 5 gallon paint buckets I saw in the local hardware store). Both places said that buckets made from High Density PolyEthelene (HDPE) are approved for food. It has to do with the possibility of interaction between any chemicals in the food and the plastic. As it turns out, Kirk manufactures only one kind of bucket, and then markets it for paint, hardware, food, etc. The price is right on the "paint buckets" - much cheaper than the local restaurant supply house.
High density polyethelene buckets will have HDPE stamped on them, or a recycle symbol with a "2" in the middle.
DISCLAIMER: I'm only passing on information I received from the manufacturers. I am in no way professing these things to be absolute fact!
From: "Jenny S. Johanssen" email@example.com
Originally posted in: rec.food.preserving
Denis - saw your comments on food grade buckets and thought I'd offer my solution. My son cooks at a local Mexican restaurant. They get all their strawberries (for the strawberry magaritas at the bar) in 3 gallon plastic buckets. Now you know how many margaritas pass through a Mexican bar each night - lots. So I asked my son to save me some buckets. They are ideal for storing flour, rice, I made (from my home grown raspberries) a delicious raspberry cordial in one of the buckets, another I made Raspberry wine in. My motto is why buy when you can recycle! Thanks for giving me the time and space to add my two-bits worth. - Jenny
From: Woody Harper firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally posted: rec.food.preserving
...I get topping buckets from Dairy Queen and I have to make sure there is no trace of the strawberry syrup left. A little detergent and elbow grease followed by a chlorine solution bath keep everything nice and clean.--
Misc.Survivalism FAQs maintained by Alan T. Hagan, email@example.com
Copyright ©1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.
Excluding contributions attributed to specific individuals all material in this work is copyrighted to Alan T. Hagan and all rights are reserved. This work may be copied and distributed freely as long as the entire text, my and the contributor's names and this copyright notice remain intact, unless my prior express permission has been obtained. This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain, included in commercial collections or compilations or included as a part of the content of any web site without prior, express permission from the author.