The food industry has very strict requirements that manufacturers need to follow to maintain complete compliance with the FDA and avoid contamination. Stainless steel is the obvious answer for any equipment or products that are to be used in the processing of food or beverages, but what some might not realize is that not just any type of stainless steel is considered food grade. This leaves the question: “What is the best food grade stainless steel to use?” Let’s break it down.
Using Stainless Steel in the Food Industry
There are many reasons that food processors look to stainless steel for production and manufacturing in the industry, for uses ranging from flour silos to conveyor systems. Some characteristics include:
- Impermeable surface, preventing contamination
- Available in a variety of versatile finishes
- Easy cleaning and maintenance
- Durable and does not dent, break or nick easily
- Not susceptible to acid erosion
- Blends easily with other finishes
- Neutral surface for food products
- Stain-resistant and transfer-resistant
Even though stainless finishes can look similar, what they can handle on a regular basis can differ substantially. There are approximately 150 grades of stainless steel available, so it’s important to select a finish that meets all FDA requirements.
What is the Best Food Grade Stainless Steel?
There are two steel alloy series considered ideal for food grade parts, which nearly all food grade steel is manufactured from: 300-series and 400-series. These are broken down even further, with 300-series commonly including grades 304 and 316, and 400-series primarily using grade 430. Ultimately, the answer of “which is best” will depend primarily on the metal’s application and type of performance needed.
Grade 316 Stainless
Grade 316 is an ideal food grade steel for nearly any application. It offers a high resistance to alkalis, acids and chlorides, such as salt, and won’t cause corrosion. It also has an extremely high continuous use temperature, more than food processing typically requires. While grade 304 is also a common alloy used in the industry, grade 316 contains more nickel which gives it its advanced corrosion resistance.
Grade 430 Stainless
Grade 430 is an excellent, lower-cost alternative to the 300-series grades and is best used for applications that need more moderately-resistant steel. Though it’s very similar to the popular 316 grade, it contains only a small fraction of nickel content, which makes it less corrosion-resistant but also less expensive.
Another characteristic of 430 grade steel is that it’s a ferritic alloy, meaning it’s magnetic. Ferritic alloys have incredible corrosion cracking resistance capabilities. It also offers a strong resistance to organic and nitric acids, as well as sulfur and oxidation, making it ideal for applications that require contact with milder acids.
Contact the Stainless Steel Experts
When it comes to equipment used in the food industry, there’s no question that food grade stainless steel is the best of the best – and for good reason. It’s finishes are strong, versatile and comply with the strict compliance requirements by the FDA for food processing equipment.
At Atlantic Stainless, we offer high-quality stainless steel grades that are available in a range of finishes, forms and sizes, including grades 316 and 430. To learn about our stainless steel options for use in the food industry, please contact us today.