by Roderick Kabel
We are asked the question more than once a week and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion out on the internet. In this article we will help to clarify a few things around this topic - even though we are not chemists or experts – a few guidelines to follow will help us all out.
We understand people’s worries about food contact with epoxy and their need to know for practical purposes. When considering our market, deep pour and table top epoxy, epoxy contact with food is a normal, everyday occurrence. The bottom line here is this; epoxy is two liquid components that are each made from chemicals; and then mixed together to create a completely new solid substance which is absent most of the initial liquid formula compounds - after a full cure. Though, the takeaway word here is “chemicals.”
Here is an excerpt taken from Wikipedia: “Epoxy is either any of the basic components or the cured end products of epoxy resins, as well as a colloquial name for the epoxide functional group. Epoxy resins, also known as polyepoxides, are a class of reactive prepolymers and polymers which contain epoxide groups.
Epoxy resins may be reacted (cross-linked) either with themselves through catalytic homopolymerisation, or with a wide range of co-reactants including polyfunctional amines, acids (and acid anhydrides), phenols, alcohols and thiols (usually called mercaptans). These co-reactants are often referred to as hardeners or curatives, and the cross-linking reaction is commonly referred to as curing.”
Would anyone knowingly ingest any of these chemicals in liquid or cured form either directly or indirectly? No, they wouldn’t.
But that’s not the question, is it? The question when asked, is communicated as food touching a cured and hardened epoxy surface, right? However there are too many variables and for-instances where any food could come in contact with hard cured epoxy.
For instance, would you eat scrambled eggs off an epoxy surface? Yuk. How about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich where the bread touches the epoxy? Maybe. Would you cut raw meat on epoxy? Nope!
What’s more frightening is the other form of this question. “Is epoxy ‘Food Grade’?” And herein lays the real problem. These two seemingly innocent food and epoxy questions are frequently interchanged and they are two very different things. Just ask the FDA.
Keep in mind “Food Grade” epoxy is formulated as such that its raw material chemical make-up is not harmful as well as the cured epoxy not being harmful. Furthermore, manufacturers must go through expensive and extensive testing with the FDA to be certified as a “Food Grade” epoxy.
The FDA’s Title 21, Volume 3 report shows that food safe epoxy does indeed exist. Even though epoxy is generally not connected with a specific setting in the kitchen, several brands claim their epoxy is formulated with FDA approved raw materials. This means that certain epoxies are safe for both direct and indirect contact with food, as regulated by the FDA. These epoxies comply with CFR 175.300 and are ideal for bonding and sealing food contact equipment, utensils and appliances.
Nevertheless, the problem here is a distortion of information, kind of like the telephone game we all played in grade school where the message told, got all jumbled by the time it reached the last person.
All over the World Wide Web and from peer to peer, epoxy newbies, experts and even manufacturers are blurring the lines. Newbies always ask if epoxy is Food Safe; experts say yes, because they tend to rely on their epoxy brand’s “food safe” literature. Then, there are the epoxy manufacturers whom have created a loop hole by leaning on and referencing the FDA and their Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.
So what’s the answer? The simple answer here is, yes, epoxy is generally safe around food in the short term. However that’s not necessarily a reassuring answer because again, the answer depends completely on what the epoxy will be used in, or on a finished project surface, and how will any said food actually come in contact with the epoxy.
The prospects for using epoxy for contact with food, has increased immensely. Many individuals are using epoxy for table tops, bar tops, counters, cutting boards, charcuterie, serving trays, drink tumblers, and many others.
Our stance is this: “WiseBond™ Epoxies are VOC-Free. We do not have FDA approval certifying direct, long-term contact with food. However once epoxy is fully cured for 30 days, it is an inert plastic and should be fine for incidental exposure to food. It is not antimicrobial. Epoxy is not safe to ingest (liquid or cured). Do not cut on or prepare raw food on epoxy surfaces.”
Okay, you say… that’s all fine and dandy but you still want to put food on your epoxy counter top. Well, let’s look a little deeper into the make-up of epoxy.
A key compound of epoxy is the ingredient Bisphenol A (BPA) or Bisphenol F (BPF). Over 60 percent of all epoxies contain or have large amounts of Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical and has been around since the 1960’s to create polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles and beverage can linings.
In 1997, adverse effects of low-dose BPA exposure in laboratory animals were first discovered. Studies began finding possible connections to health issues caused by exposure to BPA during reproduction, pregnancy and during embryo development.
In 2003, U.S. consumption of BPA was 856,000 tons, 72% of which used to make polycarbonate plastic and 21% going into epoxy resins. In the U.S., less than 5% of the BPA produced is used in food contact applications, but remains in the canned food industry and printing applications such as sales receipts.
As of 2014, research and debates are ongoing as to whether BPA should be banned or not. The CDC reported that BPA detectable levels were found in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older.
In 2015, OEHHA (California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment) listed Bisphenol A as a carcinogen to their Proposition 65 list because it can harm the female reproductive system, including effects on ovaries and eggs.
On April 1, 2016, the California Code of Regulations, operated by the OEHHA, filed an Emergency Action to amend section 25603.3 Title 27 warnings for exposures to Bisphenol A from canned and bottled foods and beverages.
OEHHA determined that it could not develop a safe harbor level for oral exposures to BPA and realized that businesses would take inconsistent approaches to compliance. Inconsistent warnings in general, would confuse citizens on a topic of vital importance to them — food safety. Consumers needed to have clear choices between food and beverage products in BPA-containing and BPA-free packaging.
There was evidence that between 66% and 90% of canned foods contain varying levels of BPA. Given the long shelf life of these types of products, some of them were likely manufactured prior to the listing of BPA in 2015. The only viable way to provide warnings for these products, absent the emergency regulation, is with shelf signs and point-of-purchase signs. Once these older products are no longer in the stream of commerce, OEHHA expects many newer products requiring warnings will have them on the product label as required by the FDA. The effects of BPA are still under review by the FDA however.
On the other hand, these specific levels of BPA are extremely low when used in canned beverages and bottled foods in comparison to the large volumes of epoxy used for art crafts and epoxy table making.
Studies on BPA have found it to be harmful to health, but there is no way to get around the fact that many epoxies on the market are formulated from it. Until a viable new solution is developed and marketed, we all need to be as informed as possible.
The difference between epoxy brands lies primarily in what the epoxy is intended for. Some individuals use epoxy for coating oil paintings, aircraft adhesives, or to coat the inside of one’s boat. Therefore, the epoxy used in these situations does not have to be food safe/grade. Conversely, individuals using epoxy in applications where food can be, and will be in contact with epoxy must understand the risks of not using an FDA certified food safe or food grade epoxy.
Carefully following instructions during the curing process dramatically decreases the adverse effects of incorrect proportioning and will ensure that the epoxy used is at its highest quality.
Epoxy, when cured, is generally “food safe” for incidental, short-term contact with food, and epoxy is also not always “food grade.” Two very different distinctions. It is solely up to you, the epoxy user, to evaluate the practicality of your epoxy usage and application when in contact with food.