Are Stainless Steel Containers Safe for Food Storage?

/ / Are Stainless Steel Containers Safe for Food Storage?

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You’re probably here because you’ve heard some bad things about stainless steel. Or you’re not sure if this piece of metal can become your trustworthy partner in storing your food. Don’t worry. I get you. I’ve done extensive research on the safety of stainless steel as food storage containers and here’s what I found.

So, are stainless steel containers safe for food storage? Stainless steel containers are deemed safe for food preparation, processing, and storage if they are made of food-grade stainless steel. Stainless steel is also considered one of the best materials for food applications due to its inherent property.

In fact, stainless steel products play a critical role in boosting hygiene in the public kitchen and restaurants.

Are stainless steel containers safe for food storage?

For decades, stainless steel has been widely used in food preparation, both in the commercial and home cookware.

It is defined as an iron-based alloy that contains a maximum of 1.2% carbon and a minimum of 10.5% chromium.

One of the most popular characteristics of stainless steel that you’ve probably know about is that they can withstand corrosion better than other types of metal.

In an industry or setting where strict hygienic conditions and ease of cleaning are essential, stainless steel has successfully proven its success. 

These industries include food and beverage preparation and processing, such as public kitchens and restaurants, as well as hospitals.

But are stainless steels truly safe when it comes to food storage?

Here’s what experts and researchers said.

Stainless steel as food contact material

Other than as food storage containers, a variety of stainless steels are utilized in food contact applications, which include:

  • Austenitic stainless steel grades: Used in a broad range of food contact applications in both industrial and domestic, including cutlery, kitchen utensils, and food processing
  • Austenitic-ferritic steels: Have been widely used for aggressive foodstuffs due to its higher resistance to corrosion
  • Martensitic stainless steels: Commonly used for both professional and cutlery knives

According to studies conducted by a non-profit research organization serving as the world forum on the international stainless steel industry’s various aspects, which is known as the International Stainless Steel Forum or ISSF, stainless steel is the best material to use in food applications, mainly because of its inherent property.

The global organization also confirmed the continuing safety of utilizing stainless steel in food processing and preparation based on independent research following the adoption of Europe’s new test criteria.

Guidelines from the CoE or the Council of Europe for alloys and metals in food contact materials outlined metal’s specific release limits or SRLs and includes a new and more aggressive assessment to mimic use in food preparation.

The report’s authors showed that every grade complies with the CoE guidelines for relevant metallic substances.

Another paper entitled “Stainless Steel: The Safe Choice” also emphasized the safety of stainless steel in contact with food.

The paper strongly follows Paracelsus’s reasoning that everything is toxic and what makes something non-toxic is the dose.

Therefore, although stainless steel utensils may release chromium and nickels during food preparation, in many cases, the amount released is considered negligible and safe for human health.

In fact, US Food Safety and Inspection Services recommend using food-grade stainless steel containers to marinate food.

In addition to being safe, stainless steels are easy to clean and do not cause flavors or color changes in food and beverages.

You can read more about the advantages of stainless steel food containers in my article here.

What types of stainless steel containers are considered safe?

Stainless steel comes in several grades, about 150 grades to be exact.

These grades generally give you an idea of the stainless steel’s durability, temperature resistance, and overall quality. 

Many of these different types of stainless steel, while having a pretty similar look, are significantly different, especially when it comes to their ability to handle things on a daily basis.

Hence, not all stainless steel grades available on the market are safe or sturdy.

Because of the overwhelming grades of stainless steel, it can be easy for you to make a mistake in choosing a finish that doesn’t comply with the FDA’s requirements.

Stainless steel that satisfies all the criteria and deemed to be safe for food storage, preparation, and dining is called food-grade stainless steel

Understanding food-grade stainless steel containers

Most food-grade stainless steel is created in the 300-series and 400-series.

The most popular and widely used food-grade stainless steel is Type 304.

Sometimes, Type 304 stainless steel goes by different codes or names, which are 18/8 and 18/10 stainless steel.

The numbers or code, such as 18/8 and 18/10, refers to the numbers of the stainless steel’s chromium and nickel composition, respectively. Hence, 18/8 stainless steel comprises of 18% chromium and 8% nickel.

Other popular food-grade stainless steel are Type 316, which can resist corrosion better than 304, and 430, which is magnetic, has a lesser amount of nickel than the 300-series, and is more prone to corrosion.

You might also find stainless steel food containers made of the 200-series stainless steel which contains manganese instead of nickel.

While these containers are cheaper than the 304-grade containers and considered food-safe, they are not as high quality and are more susceptible to corrosion compared to the 304-grade food containers.

Best stainless steel food containers for safe food storage

Here are the best stainless steel food storage containers available on the market today.

Best stainless steel food storage containers

LunchBots Stainless Steel Food Container

Made of 18/8 stainless steel, this dishwasher-safe food container is great for on-the-go lifestyles.

It features five sections, allowing you to pack up various kinds of food for a complete healthy meal.

You can also choose different colors of silicone tops, including aqua dots, blue, green dots, and pink. If you’re a minimalist, you can just purchase one without the silicone top for a lesser price.

The caveats of this container, however, are that it is not waterproof and can only store dry foods.

You can’t fill any of its compartments with fluids because there’s a little gap between the dividers and the bottom of the containers. So if you put any liquids or sauces in it, they will leak into other foods in different compartments.

The container is dishwasher-safe, making cleaning so much easier.

LunchBots also offers stainless steel containers without sections and different numbers of sections.

Best airtight stainless steel food storage containers

Kacierr Eco-friendly Stainless Steel Food Storage Container Set

Made of food-grade 18/8 stainless steel, this premium-quality airtight and leakproof container set comes in packs of 3, which include one 0.4-quart capacity container, one 1-quart capacity container, and one 1.8-quart capacity container.

It features lids made of food-grade silicone and polypropylene with a four-hinge locking system. You can choose between two different colored-lids: dark gray and green.

Since the container is airtight, you can keep your dry food fresh longer and protect them from getting contaminated with the odor of other foods in the fridge.

The container set can also be nested to one another for compact storage.

The disadvantages of this container set are that you can’t put in hot food since it only has a single-wall and you need to put in extra care to maintain it. For instance, you can’t wash it using steel wool, strong oxidizing or alkaline detergent, and can’t wipe it with abrasive wipes.

You can easily put the containers in the dishwasher after use.

Best large stainless steel food containers

Enloy Large Stainless Steel Airtight Canister

If you’re looking for a large stainless steel container to store your food items, then this canister that’s made of Type 410 food-grade stainless steel is probably your best choice.

It can hold up to 165 ounces of food and has an airtight lid with a non-toxic silicone seal and a strong locking clamp, making it perfect for storing large amounts of dry foods up to five pounds of flour.

Similar to Kacierr stainless steel container, you need to put in extra effort to care and maintain this canister so that it stays bright and not rusted.

Best insulated stainless steel food container

Mira Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Lunch Food Jar

If you want your food to stay hot or cold for longer, then this 13.5-ounce portable food jar would be your perfect option.

Made of 18/8 food-grade stainless steel and comes with leakproof and Miraguard technology, this food thermos will comfortably carry your hot and cold food with ease.

It can keep your cold food or beverage cold for up to 10 hours, and keep your hot food or beverage hot for up to 5 hours.

It also features a sweat-free exterior that keeps it from sweating in your hands. Its sylish matte-finish makes it looks good wherever you may bring it.

Best stainless steel snack containers

NomBox Eco-friendly Stainless Steel Snack Storage Containers

If you’re looking to store a small number of foods for a full meal or snacks, then this container set that’s made of 18/8 food-grade stainless steel is the perfect option for you.

This round container set comes with 3 different container capacities, which include small, medium, and large.

The small container has a capacity of 3.3 ounces, the medium one can hold around 7.4-ounce food items, and the large one has a 13.5-ounce capacity. You can nest and fit them into each other for easy storage.

Each container is durable, lightweight, leakproof, and comes with a colorful flexible silicone lid: the small one has an orange lid, the medium one has a blue lid, while the large one has a green lid.

Plus, all the containers are freezer-safe and dishwasher-safe.

Wrapping up

Stainless steels are one of the most common metals found in kitchens nowadays. You can find them in almost anything, from small kitchen appliances to food storage containers.

The extreme usage of stainless steel as food contact materials shows the fact that it is suitable for the food and beverage industry.

Also, stainless steel is considered a safe option for food storage according to experts and several studies.

Nevertheless, not all grades of stainless steel are considered safe for food preparation and storage. Stainless steel that meets all safety criteria are known as food-grade stainless steel.

The most well-known food-grade food containers are made of Type 304 stainless steel.

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