When manufacturing high performance O-rings and custom sealing solutions for the food process industry, safety has to be the number one priority. Precision Polymer Engineering manufacturers from a wide range of elastomeric materials – including silicone. But how safe is silicone sealing, and how can the health of the end consumer be protected?
At Precision Polymer Engineering, our sealing expertise combines not just compliance with an assortment of regulatory standards, but a deep understanding of our consumers and the critical performance of our elastomer products.
From those without specialist knowledge standing outside of our industry, the safety of silicone in food applications is often called into question. With a firm commitment to minimising risk in the food process chain, our professional sealing engineers share their knowledge of silicone, its properties and what this means in regards to food safety.
Silicone (or polydimethylsiloxane) is a man-made polymer and the product of Silica and Carbon when heated together at high temperatures. Silicone is a completely synthetic rubber, and a relatively hybrid material as it formed from organic compounds of Hydrogen and Carbon, known as hydrocarbons.
Silicone-based rubber products are characterised by a number of key properties, including;
- High and low heat resistance
- Chemical Resistance
- High Compressibility
- High Elasticity
- Water Repellency
The temperature resistance and performance of silicone can be highlight in two everyday household products introduced for the food industry – cupcake moulds and ice cube trays. Silicone can be transported from the temperature of a freezer to that of a hot oven without undergoing any structural changes which may affect its performance as a mould.
The number of silicone applications encountered in everyday life is incredible. From aeroplane engines to swimming goggles, silicone seals and coatings are found in just about every corner of consumer life. The impressive chemical, thermal and mechanical properties of silicone makes the material highly durable and so it is little wonder that it has been widely adopted by a range of industries, not least the food industry.
The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) is responsible for regulation of the food and pharmaceutical industries, in order to protect the public from food and drug hazards. Although the FDA is a body of the US government, and its jurisdiction only applies in the United States, its principles and regulations are adopted as a recognisable worldwide standard.
Silicone’s resistance to temperatures and chemicals ultimately means that it does not react with foodstuffs or any other media encountered in the process line. The use of silicone sealing therefore does not result in any hazardous byproducts which could adversely affect the health of the workforce or end consumers. This is important when consider silicone as a ‘food-safe’ material.
However, according to their Food Code, a material is only considered ‘food-safe’ if it is FDA-compliant, which means ‘acceptable to the regulatory authority [FDA] based on a determination of conformity with principles, practices and generally recognised standards that protect public health’. Whilst the characteristics of silicone make it highly durable and resistant, there is no automatic universal ‘approval’ of all silicone products or manufacturers.
Ultimately, this means that manufacturers of silicone components must demonstrate – on an individual basis – the compliance of the finished product. Precision Polymer Engineering manufactures products from a range of over 40 FDA-compliant rubber material grades.
Call our sealing solutions experts on 01254 295400 to discuss custom silicone seals for your food process application. Alternatively, find out more about our food-safe, FDA-compliant materials.
Related article: What makes O-rings ‘food-safe’?