What Is the Difference Between Food Grade Buckets and Regular Buckets?

Dec 16th 2021

All 5 gallon buckets may look similar, but the truth is that there are significant differences that can impact your health and safety. These containers are often used for food storage, and it is vitally important to know the difference between a food grade bucket made in the USA and a regular bucket that is manufactured with a process that can leave toxic residue. Let’s dive into what sets a food grade bucket apart from a regular bucket.

What Is the Difference Between a Food Grade Bucket and a Regular Bucket?

The differences between a food grade bucket and a regular bucket are the type of material the bucket is made of, the way it is released from the mold, and the dye used to color the bucket.

Bucket Material

The major difference between food grade buckets and regular buckets are the materials they are made out of. Food grade buckets are made of a plastic that is one of the food grade plastic numbers, found inside the recycling symbol on the bottom of the bucket. The following list of plastics are the materials used for food grade buckets.

What Is the Difference Between Food Grade Buckets and Regular Buckets?

Food Grade Materials List:

  • 1 - Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

This type of plastic is usually used for transparent items, and has both lightweight and strong qualities.

  • 2 - High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is a very common material used for buckets. It is one of the most stable and inert forms of plastic, and is typically used for long term food storage buckets. Most food grade buckets are made from this type of plastic.

  • 4 - Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

LDPE is a thinner and more flexible type of HDPE.

  • 5 - Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene is a heat resistant and flexible plastic, often used in applications like drinking straws or hot food containers.

These plastics are used in the production of food grade containers of all types due to their unique properties. When they come into contact with food, these materials are free from any chemicals that could contaminate the food that comes into contact with it.

Regular buckets are often made of #7 plastic, which is a catch-all category of plastics indicating a mixture of recyclable materials. These plastics could contain pesticides or other chemicals that can leach into food that is stored in these buckets. An important note is that regular buckets may also be marked as #2, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are food grade due to the factors we’ll discuss in a moment.

Another important aspect of food grade plastics is whether or not they contain BPA. Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a chemical used in the manufacturing process of certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. This chemical is considered safe at a very low level of consumption, but some people are concerned about their exposure to BPA due to the potential health effects. If you are concerned about BPA, you should look for food storage products that are marked “BPA-free,” like the food grade containers and buckets you’ll find at ePackageSupply.com.

The best way to determine if your bucket is food grade is to purchase a bucket that is specifically designated as a food grade bucket, or check for a food grade plastic symbol on the bottom—this symbol looks like a cup and fork, indicating that it is safe to store food in.

Chemicals Used in the Manufacturing Process

Buckets are usually manufactured through a blow molding or injection molding process. The plastic material is heated in order to make it conform to the shape of the mold. Once cooled, the plastic will stay in the shape of the mold. However, to get the plastic out of the mold, a release agent must be used, otherwise the plastic will adhere to the mold permanently. Before the hot plastic is poured into the mold, the surface of the mold is treated with a release agent.

In order for a bucket to be considered food grade, every part of the manufacturing process must be non-toxic in case of residue. Some of the most common release agent types include:

  • Petroleum and mineral oil-based
  • Synthetic and semi-synthetic-based
  • Natural-based (for example, vegetable oil or animal fat)
  • Silicone-based
  • Wax or stearate-based

Some of these release agents, like synthetic or petroleum agents, can pose grave health and safety hazards if food products come into contact with the residue and then are consumed by humans or animals.

Food grade buckets are manufactured with release agents that are safe and non-toxic. Regular buckets may be manufactured with release agents that leave toxic residue that, while safe for incidental contact, is not safe for storing food.

To Dye or Not to Dye

It’s always lovely to have brightly colored buckets, and can come in handy for knowing what you’ve stored inside of your buckets if you use a color-coordinated storage system. However, just like release agents, different dyes can affect whether or not your bucket is food grade.

Regular buckets are often dyed blue, orange, or black, while food grade buckets are typically white. This is because the white bucket does not have any dyes or colorants in it, eliminating any possibility of food contamination from toxic dyes. There are food-safe dyes, so any food grade bucket that is colored will have used a food grade dye in the manufacturing process. Be sure to check that the bucket is designated as “food grade” by the supplier before storing food in a colorful bucket.

Where Can I Find the Best Food Grade Plastic Containers?

At ePackageSupply.com, of course! Our 5 gallon food grade buckets and all of our food grade materials are made with FDA-approved, BPA-free plastics and are suitable for long and short term food storage. In addition to our buckets and containers, we also sell a variety of food-safe lids. You can purchase bulk food grade buckets through our website or, if you only need a few buckets, you can purchase any quantity, no minimum required. Looking for other types of food grade containers? We’ve got the variety you’re searching for. We have containers, jars, cups, and more—all food grade and ready for your prepping, serving, and storage needs. Explore our catalogue or contact us today with any questions!

*ePackage exclusively sells official Gamma Lid ® products.