Updated: Jan 31
This subject comes up quite frequently .... and it's always very controversial. Everyone has very different opinions about it (much like they do when it comes to plastic water bottles).
First of all, the FDA does not approve nor certify resin companies!!! So saying a resin is “FDA certified or approved”, is not technically correct nor a possibility. The FDA simply makes guidelines that manufacturers need to follow, so the resins need to comply to certain guidelines to be “FDA compliant”. The technically correct terminology would be that it is FDA Compliant.
***Most all of the resins we are using in our art these days, that are "100% solid system epoxy resins", are rated exactly the same as far as FDA ratings go. And one isn't more food safe then the other, unless it's not a solid system epoxy, as those do not meet the FDA Compliant guidelines.
One thing we do all agree on and know for certain, is All epoxy resins are inert once cured!!!
Over the years, there have been many discussions about possible food safe resins. It gets tricky and confusing to navigate through all of the claims and information out there. Ideally, each artist will need to come up with their own decision they are comfortable with. The information below are examples of information I have heard and gathered over the years, from various sources, and it is just information being shared for your perusal and awareness. Sometimes we find the discussions on this food safe subject get pretty heated, and lead to people making peevish criticisms or objections that some others might find trivial. All artists have different comfort levels and ultimately it's up to them how and where they put the product.
***Disclaimer: I am not a manufacturer, and I personally do not make any food safety claims on behalf of any companies. I can only suggest reviewing SDS sheets and FDA information (FDA link is provided in this blog below). This blog is not intended to make any set conclusions, rather general things to be aware of and knowledgeable of, since I'm frequently asked about this subject. As stated previously it is a murky subject, do your own research and assess your own risk aversion.
The FDA Compliancy approval rating is for thermogenic cured resins. There are listed ingredients that are exceptions but for the most part all 100% solid systems epoxy resins are rated food safe for "incidental food contact". Please note, it isn't something uniquely special to one brand.
Note: The incidental food contact FDA approval does cover food prep, also that particular designation is not meant for long term food storage. So foods technically are fine touching the resin surface. Food prep does not include cutting, that is a different designation all together. FDA compliant typically means if food lands on it, it's fine to pick it up and eat it (ie: casual food contact). You should not plan to cut on it, nor serve hot, citrus or oily food directly on it for extended contact, much like you don't typically serve and leave food sit on a countertop. Dry food sitting on it is fine. ***Since these details can get technical, confusing, missed, and are too long to put on most care cards for customers, many suggest it's best just to use the resin art decor on areas where it won't be an issue of concern. But again, that is an artists decision.
Direct food (vs incidental food), contact would mean it can be used as food storage and packaging without a barrier in between (example: lining on aluminum food cans), there is a lot of controversy on this. And regardless of what clever marketing statements claim, the majority of resin projects do not fall in this category, unless done in a commercial environment.
All of these FDA Compliancy ratings also only applies “IF“ your mix is measured accurately and mixed thoroughly. Apparently, it only has a 2% error allowance in mix ratios. It's likely that our at home mixes are more than a 2% error on occasion. So while it may have an FDA approval, this 2% error margin, is more likely meant for commercial applications where the measuring and mixing is done on a much more scientific scale than what we're doing at home with measuring cups and scales.
Also note, the FDA guidelines for epoxy resins, do not include many of the colourants and glitters, sealers, paints, adhesives or other additives and inclusions people often add to or use with resins. The food safety guidelines is for the epoxy resin only. Each art medium or other product will have their own set of food safety guidelines to review, but once they are added to any resin, the FDA Compliancy status on the resin has been altered from.
In reference to the FDA compliant guidelines for resins, it also specifically states, "it needs to be used and applied in compliant areas", (as part of The compliancy conditions). So these guidelines are strictly for unaltered epoxy, mixed and applied in an fda compliant "area".
There is a lot that goes into maintaining that FDA compliance that people don't understand or know about. For instance when people use an FDA compliant epoxy, and add things to it, torch it, manipulate it with a heat gun (sometimes overheating it), mix and apply in a bedroom, kitchen, etc., this could fall under the not used (or mixed & applied) in a compliant area. So even if just clear coating, it might not fit in the used in a compliant area, due to the setting it's being created in (according to some people).
Shot glasses made of solid resin should be for decoration only, or you can instead resin the exterior of glasses below the lip level. Alcohol can break down resins, which can compromise it. Using resin on shot glasses meant for alcohol, likely falls under the not used (or applied) in a compliant area.
In April 2018, the FDA changed their wording on guidelines & added resinous, and that's when more resin companies began leaning towards adding food safe wording in their marketing. The FDA 21CFR175.300 rating you'll sometimes see quoted, is the exact same exemption that all (100% solid system) epoxy resin companies share ... it just says resin is exempt. And again, this rating is not specific to one brand!
In the end, all solid system epoxy resins we are using in our art, are non toxic when cured. once cured those chemicals have become inert.
Non toxic and food safe or compliant, are two different things. Being non toxic does not mean it is safe to ingest or put in your mouth. For example, In cake decorating, a sharpie is non toxic, but you would not use it to write on a cake, you would use a proper food safe approved cake decorating pen.
“FDA compliant” is based on using product, as is, and in compliant areas.
As artists, we should be thinking on behalf of our customers. If you are unsure, err on the side of caution. Ideally it would be considered proper and professional to attach care cards, for all items that customers would benefit knowing proper usage with, and how to clean. There are a few examples of care card information for a variety of resin art projects in a different care card blog post for your perusal.
Dec/21 - Edited to add this very interesting note: I just learned that iCoat Epoxy Products, (who started in the epoxy industry 30 years ago), got started in the industry by making epoxy specifically designed as a safe application for drinking water tank linings. They also now make over 20 specialty epoxies for art and construction applications. We now carry several of the iCoat Epoxy resins at ArtWorks Resin Canada.
Here is the link to the FDA Compliant information for those who would like to see the full document often referred to.
On a different side note, that can be confusing, when something states it is certified to meet certain standards, please be aware .... anyone can "certify" anything. As one epoxy resin peer stated, “When something states its been tested and certified to follow said standards, they could be certifying it in a paid-for lab, or through their aunt Betty who might own or run said lab for all we know. Perfectly legal to say & do, but it can be misleading for those who don't understand.“ If there are no supporting documents available, or the documents to support said claims are not from a recognized and known government agency, it might just be a marketing gimmick.
Most all epoxy resins we are using in our art, starts out with similar chemical type make up or base. Then each brand is tweaked with their own proprietary formulas. Some brands add plant based additives and then call it eco friendly or based, but they are no less a chemical than the others. Some are able to claim BPA free as long as they keep their percentage just under the amount that has to be reported. The same way some foods can claim fat free when containing fat. No epoxy can be formulated without the use of either BPA, BPB or BPF compounds, but they can use an amount negligible enough to claim it as being free of said compounds.
Epoxy resins ALL go through a "chemical reaction" called exotherm in order to cure, and regardless of clever marketing claims, you need to remember to treat them as chemicals while creating with them. Each brand has their own SDS (Safety Data Sheets), that it's up to the users to review! Contact manufacturers for them if you can not find the one your need.