← Back to Articles

What are the various standards for products connected with food and beverage use?

Question: I'm looking at a product, and the description says that it is NSF listed and meets FDA standards. Does this mean the container is good for food and drink? Does the description need to say USDA approved if I want to use the container for food and drink?

Answer: Plastic materials are often specified in food and drug processing, handling, or packaging equipment. For these materials to be used, federal, state, or association regulatory requirements may have to be met. Requirements vary from organization to organization, so standards must be checked for each material, component, or equipment configuration. When the description says that a product is NSF listed and meets FDA standards, it will suit your needs when used properly.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Safety and Inspection Service regulates the agricultural food industry's manufacturing, packaging, and handling practices. The USDA has jurisdiction over equipment used in meat and poultry processing plants. Materials used in this equipment are approved on an individual basis.

For a product to be USDA COMPLIANT, components used in direct food contact must be documented as to their compliance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ("FDA compliance") by a written letter of guaranty from the manufacturer to ensure that they are formulated in compliance with appropriate regulations. Therefore, USDA requirements for material approval are satisfied by a certification of FDA compliance. For further information on USDA regulations, contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Compounds and Packaging Branch, Product Assessment Division, Building 306 BARC-East, Beltsville, MD 20705. By phone; (301) 504-8566. or visit them at https://www.usda.gov on the Internet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the United States government's regulatory agency responsible for determining how materials may be used in contact with food products. The FDA participates in the publication of The Federal Register, which contains The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), a codification of the general rules established by the Executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. The Code is divided into 50 titles which represent a broad subject matter.

Definitions for proper use of food contact materials are found in a series of regulations published annually under The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21. Title 21 - Food and Drugs is composed of nine volumes subdivided into Parts. Part 177 - Indirect Food Additives: Polymers lists standards for polymers acceptable for use in components of single and repeat-use food contact surfaces. Part 178 - Indirect Food Additives: Adjuvants, Production Aids, and Sanitizers includes standards for certain polymer additives. Parts are divided into Sections identified by a chemical family, which indicate physical, chemical, and compositional requirements, as well as acceptable service conditions for food contact. Regulations generally limit the extractable substance when exposed to selected solvents.

Within the FDA, there is no government-operated process of inspecting plastics produced for food contact use. Rather, the FDA, in its regulations, provides certain specifications regarding composition, additives, and properties. A material that meets these standards can then be stated as FDA COMPLIANT. End users should note that it is their responsibility to use the product in a manner compatible with FDA guidelines. For further information on FDA regulations, contact the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Office of Premarket Approval HFS-216, 200 C. Street SW, Washington, DC 20204, by phone at (202) 418-3080, or visit them at https://www.fda.gov on the Internet.

NSF International, formerly the National Sanitation Foundation, is an independent, not-for-profit, neutral agency that sets standards for all direct and indirect drinking water additives. Manufacturers who provide equipment displaying the NSF symbol have applied to the NSF for device approval to a specific standard. The approval is issued for the finished product (device) for a specific use (application). For example, a commercial ice machine manufacturer will obtain NSF approval for the ice machine (device to Standard - application).

To obtain device approval, all components within the device must comply with the Standard. Establishing compliance with the equipment's components can be accomplished in one of two ways:

  1. The component has been tested to the Standard by the component supplier and is certified as such.
  2. The equipment manufacturer must supply documentation that the component meets the Standard; if any testing is required, it must be completed by the equipment manufacturer.

The NSF maintains hundreds of Standards, but three standards that apply to plastic products are:

# 51 - Plastics in Food Equipment: defines the material requirements for food protection, considering extractables using FDA guidelines

# 61 - Drinking Water System Components -- Health Effects: covers indirect drinking water additives and addresses the health and toxicity effects of plastic resins.

# 14 - Manufacture of Fittings and for Accessories other than Pipe Fittings: applies to thermoplastic and thermoset plastics piping system components in contact with potable water and primarily addresses physical properties of plastic components in piping and plumbing systems.

For further information on NSF Standards, contact NSF International, 3475 Plymouth Road, P.O. Box 1301140, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0140, by phone at (800) 673-7275, or visit them at https://www.nsf.org on the Internet. Standards can also be ordered online.

Title: What are the various standards for products connected with food and beverage use?
Description: An overview of what it means when a product meets FDA standards, is NSF listed and is USDA compliant
Published: 12/9/2003
Last Edited: 1/19/2023
25 users found this article useful. Was this article useful to you?

Information disclaimer:

The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by United States Plastic Corp. and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of materials, time or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this information.