Food Safety

About 3D Printed Items and Food Contact:
From the report about PLA Safety assessment of polylactide (PLA) for use as a food-contact polymer published in 1995 in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Highlights from this report:
The researchers tested PLA under a variety of typical food storage conditions and measured what leached out into food-simulating solvents, such as Ethanol (what you find in liquor) and acetic acid. The storage conditions were varied with a bunch of short and long term storage conditions. They even heated and refrigerated samples to simulate normal food serving conditions.

The study concluded that PLA (with no color dyes) is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) when used in contact with food. PLA does release a small amount of lactic acid into food it comes in contact with. Lactic acid is a safe, common food ingredient, that’s even found in breast milk. They estimated that the amount of lactic acid people would consume from PLA to be about 700 times less than the lactic acid intake of breast-fed infants.

It is concluded that PLA is safe and ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ for its intended uses as a polymer for fabricating articles that will hold and/or package food. However, the research mentioned above was on products molded from PLA, not printed using PLA on a 3D printer, so please take note:

  • The PLA we use is derived from natural materials such corn, potato and tapioca, but is not FDA approved for food containers or direct food contact.
  • This is not our research, so any use of PLA printed items with food is done at your own risk.
    • Some in the printing forums have suggested coating the object in a silicone-based food-grade sealant, but we have no research on this.
    • In the case of cookie cutters and cookie stamps, some suggest placing a layer of plastic wrap between the dough and the cookie cutter and stamp.
  • ABS plastic has been determined to not be food safe.
  • T-glase does make a PET filament that is FDA approved, but is 2-3 times more expensive than standard filament and more difficult to work with.
  • Because of the way 3D printed objects are made, the printed object will have slight variations in the surface, and tiny crevices, which can trap food particles and cause potential bacteria growth in these areas.