Long Term Food Storage: What Constitutes a Food-Grade Tote

Long Term Food Storage: What Constitutes a Food-Grade Tote


Long term food storage can be a tricky proposition. You need to account for potential spoilage and contamination. You also need to account for preserving flavor, texture, and visual appeal. It is all about choosing the right container and storage environment. That leads us to the topic of this post: food-grade totes.

What constitutes a food-grade tote? Where can you buy them? Is food grade the same thing as food safe? These are all questions you are likely to ask if you are in the market for food totes for long term storage. As for the answers, we turn to CedarStone Industry, a Houston company that deals in storage totes.

  1. Definition of Food Grade

The ‘food grade’ designation does not apply only to food totes. It can be applied to just about anything that either comes into direct contact with food or is added to food as a preservative, emulsion, etc. Something that is food grade is made with materials or ingredients that are safe for human consumption.

Food-grade totes are typically made with a plastic known as high density poly ethylene (HDPE). As long as it is made to food grade standards, HDPE is free from chemicals that would be unsafe to consume. Likewise, nothing from the plastic itself is likely to leach into the food being stored inside.

Stainless steel is another food-grade material that can be used to make storage totes. However, HDPE is the preferred material due to its lower weight and greater flexibility. Almost all commercial IBC totes are made with it.

  1. Definition of Food Safe

A food-safe tote is so designated because storing food in it does not pose any danger to human health. There is a slight difference between this designation and the food grade designation. The easiest way to understand the difference is by means of a simple illustration.

Let us say you used a food-grade tote to transport diesel fuel. Even though the tote is food grade, it would no longer be food safe. No matter how well you cleaned the container, there would always be a chance that petroleum components adhering to the inside surface would leach into food being stored in the tote. That tote would never be food safe again.

You can say that all food-safe totes are also food-grade totes. But the opposite is not true. As our illustration demonstrates, a contaminated food-grade tote is no longer food safe.

  1. Buying Food Grade Totes

Commercial and industrial buyers purchase brand new food-grade totes from companies like CedarStoneIndustry. Buying brand new is in their best interests. Used totes are too risky because buyers do not really know how much life they have left in them. This is not to say that used food-grade totes need to be discarded.

Non-commercial buyers pick up used totes all the time. It is not hard to do considering that they are found all over the internet. Farmers purchase used totes to store water and grain. Paving contractors and landscapers find the totes invaluable for transporting water and fuel. Even preppers can find plenty of valuable uses for them.

When a food-grade tote is the only appropriate long term food storage solution, new and used options are out there. Look for identifying marks somewhere near the bottom of a plastic tote. The food grade mark is often found near the recycling symbol, typically on the bottom of the container.

Also remember that food grade and food safe are separate designations. Never store food in a tote that is not deemed food safe, even if it is a food-grade tote.

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