Selecting the right food-safe fabric for storing edible goods is critical to ensuring that no one gets sick from the food stored inside that fabric. But how do you know what’s safe vs. what isn’t? The US Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating what kind of fabrics are permissible for use with food.
All products used in the handling, storage, and packaging of food items must meet the requirements laid out by the USFDA to keep food safe for everyone who consumes it. The packaging cannot contain harmful chemicals that could be transferred into any food stored in the packaging, whether fabric or plastic.
In light of recent information about dangerous chemicals found in food wrappers, it has become even more important to know what is and isn’t food safe.
There’s a lot that goes into the manufacturing process to ensure that you stay safe and healthy, and that’s what we’re focusing on in today’s blog. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about food-safe fabrics.
Factors for Safe Contact with Food
Thankfully, FDA guidelines make it easy to know whether a fabric is safe for contact with food. There are three factors at play:
- The fabric’s material or fiber content;
- What adjuvants and additives are used in the manufacturing process, such as oils, dyes, softeners, etc., to enhance the fabric for use with foods; and
- Whether it passes the tests specified for specific types of food items and the storage conditions
For instance, you could have a cotton fabric that should be safe for food. But if it was manufactured with a dye that’s not food safe, it can’t be used, at least not with food.
Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
Any plain fabric or fabric that’s been treated with an adjuvant or additive must then meet the following criteria:
- The material must be listed in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which covers every imaginable substance. It lists whether that substance may be used near food and, if so, what criteria it must meet.
Examples include everything from abietic acid to zirconium stearate. Nothing is left out! Title 21 is 74 pages long and is listed in alphabetical order. It’s also free to access, enabling everyone to meet food safety requirements.
- Not only does the material need to be listed in Title 21, but the amount must also follow 21 CFR guidelines.
- If the fabric is coated or film-laminated, the coating/lamination must be made with material that is Generally Accepted As Safe or is listed in 21 CFR.
- If the fabric is coated or film-laminated, it must be done using a GRAS-approved or CFR-approved process, several of which are listed in CFR.
- Is your fabric waterproof? Then it must be tested to ensure it works with the food it’s meant for at the temperature at which it will be stored.
How the fabric should be tested will depend on the following situations:
- What kind of food will be stored in the fabric
- How the container is cleaned and packaged
- At what temperature the food will be stored
- Whether the fabric will be used once or multiple times
If your fabric meets the criteria listed in points one through four, it’s safe for use with dry food items like dried fruit, grains, or flour.
Waterproof Fabrics and fabrics used for foods other than dry food items
Food-safe fabrics are being used more and more to handle and store food items. Waterproof materials are popular for making reusable bags to replace Ziploc snack bags and freezer bags to store meats, frozen vegetables, and fruit.
Fine mesh fabrics are used as coffee filters, tea bags, and more. Some bakeries use food-safe mesh fabric for baked goods. In some food preparation places, the countertops are covered with food-safe fabric like PUL, so the entire countertop becomes a food-safe work area that you can clean easily.
For all such uses, the fabric has to be tested safe for use as per the tests described in 21 CFR 175. This applies to each specific food item at the temperature at which you will store it. Fabrics like ProSoft FoodSAFE PUL and ProCare meet all these requirements, saving you time and money on testing.
Not all waterproof fabrics are food safe. It’s important to be very careful with fabrics that have a Durable Water Repellent treatment. Even though they’re water-resistant, there’s no guarantee they’re food safe. If you’re unsure of whether something is food safe, ask the supplier to prove food safety by asking the following questions:
- With what section of 21 CFR does your fabric comply?
- What oils, additives, dyes, or finishing agents were used with your fabric?
- Where is the fabric manufactured?
- Does a third party manufacture the fabric?
- Have you seen the manufacturing process in person?
- If used, is the lamination/coating done with an approved polyurethane or resin?
- With what kinds of foods have this fabric been tested?
- Is the fabric food safe, or is it CPSIA certified? Don’t let them make you think that they’re the same thing – they’re not!
- Does the fabric come with a statement of assurance that the fabric is indeed food safe?
- If not, will the manufacturer issue a certificate of assurance quoting its passed standards?
If the manufacturer or supplier can’t meet those requirements, it’s not a good idea to purchase your fabric for them; at least not the fabric you’ll use with food.
Food Safe Fabric
To truly be safe, your best bet is to purchase fabrics that are 100% eco-friendly, CPSIA certified, and tested for food safety; this covers multiple bases for your and the planet’s protection.
There are multiple options, including waterproof fabrics like ProSoft and ProCare materials, that meet 21 CFR Part 175 regulations for repeated use for food storage at different temperature ranges. There are also non-waterproof fabrics available, such as our ProECO FoodSAFE Organics.
You can use these fabrics to store anything without worrying about contracting an illness from dyes or preservatives absorbing into your food. You can use them for storing all kinds of food and non-alcoholic beverages.
You can store baked goods, dairy products, fats, oils, dry food, water, food, curries, vegetables, sandwiches, sauces, and pasta. The food can be placed hot or cold and can be used for storing in the refrigerator or freezer.
Our fabrics are being used for a variety of items, such as lining baked goods, sandwich bags, snack bags, freezer storage, vegetable bags, water bottles, soup bags, table cloths, bibs, lunch box liners, bowl covers, countertop liners, meat storage, butter wrappers, straining almond milk, coffee filters, and more. They continually inspire new uses.
AKAS Tex & Wazoodle Fabrics
AKAS Tex is the industry leader for food-safe fabrics that you can use without worry or fear. After all, no one wants to poison themselves or someone they love with a material that isn’t safe for food! Finding out about testing can be difficult, especially with companies that aren’t entirely transparent.
Our FoodSAFE Fabrics meet 21 CFR Part 175 regulations for food-safe fabric while being 100% eco-friendly and CPSIA certified. We don’t use PFOS, PFOA, lead, dioxins, heavy metals, BPA, or phthalates, in our fabrics. Our FoodSAFE fabrics are indeed as safe as you can get!
Our FoodSAFE fabrics are available for purchase on our sister site, Wazoodle Fabrics. Contact us today if you’re looking for more information. A member of our team will be happy to help you!