Author Options:

Plastic buckets - safe for food storage? Answered

If a retail store's 5-, 6-, 7-gallon plastic buckets are made from HDPE (high density polyethylene), will they be safe for storing flour, sugar, honey, etc., and for growing vegetables such as tomatoes? Or, would buckets made from other kinds of plastics such as PET, PETE, or PP be safer for food storage? While shopping on the Internet, manufacturers' literature's for HDPE buckets say the items "meets FDA requirements." What exactly are the FDA's requirements with regards to HDPE-made buckets? I have asked a manufacturer, and searched the FDA's Web site http://www.fda.gov/default.htm for an explanation without success.



6 years ago

Again, this topic is quite old, but I've been researching this question and I found this post, so I'll add my findings here.

1) HDPE is a broad classification of plastics. As stated before, that and the recycle number indicate how the plastic can be recycled, not necessarily everything that is in it.

2) Plastics in general "outgas" or release elements into the atmosphere as they age. Exactly what is being released and how much is very manufacturer / application specific.

3) The FDA has a database with many of these substances listed. Though interesting in a nerdy sort of way, that, of course, is useless since no bucket manufacturer ever tells you the chemicals they used to make the thing.

Conclusion: Using a big orange HDPE bucket from Home Depot might be OK, or it might release stinky, sickening, and/or carcinogenic compounds into your food.  Who knows?  Best to stick with actual "FDA approved"  stamped buckets for food. (There's an instructible on how to mooch some.)

Alternatives: Even after all that, there are still a couple of ideas for salvaging a brand-x bucket:

1)  The FDA also has another database that describes various processes for recycling old plastics into new food containers.  This could give some cleaning and testing ideas to the truly devoted.

2) One of the main ideas recyclers use is the random recycled plastic with an inside liner of known plastic.  (That way the outgassing on the outside can do what it wants, but the outgassing on the inside is food safe.)  You don't have to set up your own plastic plant to achieve the same result.  Instead, simply buy mylar liner bags for poly buckets that would serve this same exact purpose.  Since these are recommended anyway for longer-term food storage, you could also recoup some of the bag expense by going with the cheap buckets.

I realize it's a lil late to be answering this question however in case someone comes across this and does want an answer it's #2 buckets that are food safe (look for recycle number on lid and bottom of bucket) are ok for food use - you can get these at tractor supply for sure but perhaps also at home depot or Lowes .Be sure to clean and sterilize.If you recycle buckets be aware of what was in them before using of course ...

Also good to store dehydrated food in buckets that has been package with oxygen packs and in vacuum sealed bags so when you do open them not everything is re exposed to air (they are great for long term storage to keep everything air free) for flour etc I would package up several bags then place in bucket when I need some I can just take out one bag at a time and the rest stays air tight...search survival websites for oxygen packs they are not too expensive - maybe 15 or so for like 100 or more packets of the small ones a lil more for larger ones.

Please be aware that the #2 just means it's High Density PolyEthylene. It does not mean that the bucket is food grade. A true food grade bucket uses only food grade release agents and other chemicals in the post-processing and coloring of the buckets. #5 and #7 buckets can also be food grade. More info here: http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/plastics.html

Depends on what the original container was for, I would not recommend storing food in an old gas can. But say you went to the hardware store and bought a new plastic bucket with tight fitting lid and you were able to clean and sanitize it before use then it should be fine.


HDPE is an excellent choice.

According to this, you are fine as long as your foods do not contain hot gasoline and nail polish remover. : )

Generally speaking, you are no more likely to get some horrible disease from a plastic bucket than from a wooden one. However, if the plastic was not designed for high temperatures, do not put boiling hot food in it.

Also try my two answers over here:

Agree with original answer L

As long as they have an air-tight / water-tight lid, they're fine.