What Does "Food Grade" Mean?

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The Definition of “Food Grade”

The term, “food grade,” refers to the materials used in equipment. To be defined as food grade, materials need to be non-toxic and safe for consumption.

“Food grade is just a term. It’s not an organization or regulation. When plants build or service machines, it’s their responsibility to understand food grade materials and how to use them,” said Trent Bullock, Process Engineer at CSI.

Food grade equipment and devices are important, because products are usually in direct contact with the devices manufacturing the food products. Chemical compounds in the materials could leach into exposed product, or some situations, could result in tiny pieces of a material transferring directly into the product to be consumed.

When equipment is designed to be food grade, these hazards are avoided. For example, if a food grade silicone o-ring is exposed to hot or acidic food products, no harmful chemicals can leach out of the silicone into that product. If a tiny amount of food grade lubricant or grease makes its way to a product-contact portion of a piece of equipment, it will not cause harm to the end user.

However, food grade is only a term to describe the material of equipment and does not mean that the equipment, as a whole, is safe for food. Other factors, such as cleanability, need to be taken into account. The only way to guarantee that a piece of equipment is sanitary is by depending on certifications from organizations like 3-A Sanitary Standards and European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG) and utilizing proper installation and maintenance methods.

To learn more about what to look for in sanitary equipment, keep an eye out for CSI’s series detailing the different food safety organizations, standards, and regulations.

Expert Bio

Trent Bullock - Process Engineer

Trent graduated from University Missouri Rolla, currently known as Missouri University of Science and Technology, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has vast industry experience in controls and automation, process engineering, manufacturing engineering, and OEM equipment development. He has been a Process Engineer at CSI since 2012 and is responsible for designing sanitary process and control systems for food, dairy, and beverage industries. He is focused on providing support and technical expertise to both internal and external customers.


Central States Industrial Equipment (CSI) is a leader in distribution of hygienic pipe, valves, fittings, pumps, heat exchangers, and MRO supplies for hygienic industrial processors, with four distribution facilities across the U.S. CSI also provides detail design and execution for hygienic process systems in the food, dairy, beverage, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and personal care industries. Specializing in process piping, system start-ups, and cleaning systems, CSI leverages technology, intellectual property, and industry expertise to deliver solutions to processing problems. More information can be found at www.csidesigns.com.