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Is Polycarbonate Safe for Use in Dehydration?

Written by: Shauna Verkade, CEO of Excalibur Products

This Article Discusses the Concerns about the use of Polycarbonate Plastics in Food Dehydration.

Dear Customers:

Thank you for your inquiry about the safety of polycarbonate and it’s use in dehydration. We here at Excalibur are always looking at the safety of our products and only use the highest quality materials to ensure that we meet the highest standards possible. Here are two important facts about Excalibur Home Dehydrators:

 

  1. Excalibur's Tray Screen Material is made from FDA Approved Polypropylene #5 which is one of the safest plastics for direct food contact.  We use polycarbonate as the Case material because it is virtually indestructible; however, we use polypropylene #5 for the parts that your food sets on because it is the safest plastic for food contact available. ** Please note that food does not come into contact with polycarbonate- the plastic that your food sets on in the Excalibur is polypropylene #5 NOT polycarbonate**.
  2. FDA Approved polycarbonate is safe when used at low temperatures and will not give off harmful fumes like low-quality plastic dehydrators. The use of polycarbonate plastic for food contact applications has been and continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and other regulatory authorities worldwide.  Important – make sure that you have FDA Approved for Food Contact polycarbonate as there are different types of polycarbonates.

 

Most of the concern around the safety of Polycarbonate arose when a 20/20 (ABC TV) report aired on April 19, 1999. This program reported on a warning from Consumer Reports telling parents to dispose of all polycarbonate baby bottles. Consumer Reports tested polycarbonate baby bottles and found that bisphenol-A off gassed from the polycarbonate and migrated from the bottles into the milk.

Bisphenol-A is a chemical that is used in making Polycarbonate.  The problems arose when parents were microwaving and boiling polycarbonate baby bottles repeatedly.  The important fact to note is that in this study, the polycarbonate was subjected to extremely high temperatures-- over 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

The fact of the matter is ALL MATERIALS GIVE OFF GAS or breakdown be it plastics, metal or wood-  It depends on what temperatures a particular material starts to soften and at what temperature that particular material starts to breakdown.  Polycarbonate’s softening point is 302 – 320 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s melting point is 428 - 446 degrees Fahrenheit.  When polycarbonate is exposed to EXTREME temperatures it can start to soften but that does not mean that harmful chemicals are released.  Many studies have tried to duplicate the migration of bispenol-A and have not been able to show that a safety concern exists.

In 2005 the safety of polycarbonate bottles was examined by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority in a study that measured migration from 22 baby bottles (representing 14 brands). The bottles had been used for up to three years in households under typical conditions including microwave heating, boiling before use and dishwashing. Consistent with many other studies, no migration of bisphenol- A  was detected from the bottles.

A similar study was sponsored by the United Kingdom's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Consumer Affairs Directorate, Consumer Safety Research program and conducted by LGC Ltd (Earls et al, 2000). The study examined 21 new baby bottles purchased from various retail outlets in the London area and tested under "realistic worst-case conditions of use." The bottles were washed and sterilized, filled with either boiling water or 3% acetic acid solution, capped, and placed in a refrigerator for 24 hours. After warming briefly, the contents were analyzed. In every case, no bisphenol- A was detected.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.K. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) both tested for migration of bisphenol- A from polycarbonate baby bottles into infant formula or fruit juice. In the FDA study (Biles et al, 1997), bottles were washed, sterilized, filled with apple juice or infant formula and refrigerated for 72 hours. These conditions were characterized as typical or normal. No bisphenol- A  was found in any sample.

Likewise, in the extensive UK MAFF study (Mountfort et al, 1997; MAFF, 1997), baby bottles were repeatedly processed through a sequence in which the bottles were washed, sterilized (three methods tested), filled with fruit juice or infant formula, warmed in a microwave oven, cooled, and analyzed. After as many as 30 cycles, bisphenol- A was not detected in any sample. In addition, no detectable levels of bisphenol- A were found when the bottles were periodically filled with water and held at 104 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days.

As you can see the above results do not support the warning from Consumer Reports; however, what is completely clear is the fact that Polycarbonate’s softening point is 302 – 320 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s melting point is 428 - 446 degrees Fahrenheit.  Because the temperatures of dehydration do not even approach 160 degrees Fahrenheit and most people dehydrate at a much lower temperature than that- there are NO SAFETY concerns in using polycarbonate at low temperatures.  In fact our dehydrators are built with a thermally sensitive safety fuse so that in case of a malfunction it will cut off the dehydrators heat way before it reaches it’s softening point thus protecting you and your family.

Bottom line, polycarbonate poses no known risk to human health when used at the low temperatures of dehydration and food does not come into contact with polycarbonate- the plastic that your food sets on in the Excalibur is polypropylene #5 NOT polycarbonate. The use of FDA Approved   polycarbonate plastic for food contact applications (which Excalibur uses)has been and continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and other regulatory authorities worldwide.