Where to Find the Cheapest Food Grade Buckets?

Plastic food grade buckets should be resistant to acid and alcohol. Like that found in beer and wine.

The retailers below have supplied the legions of home wine makers and beer brewers for many years. Although their pails and fermenting buckets are made for that market they perform equally well for food storage as well.

Image showing a collage of food grade bucketsFood grade pails for wine, beer and food storage

The most trusted retailers that sell them pretty cheap are:

They all have discounts and different shipping deals from time to time so have a look to see who has the best deal on right now.

I mentioned a few more suppliers here on the wine making supplies page as well but the above three are pretty competitive.

It's worth checking out amazon.com as well because of their vast supply chain and ability to offer free shipping.


Common Sense When Buying Buckets

Let's get this right...

The perception that food grade buckets have a symbol on the bottom that designates it "food-grade" is wrong.

Image showing four HDPE2 symbols which doesn't guarantee a food certified bucketAn HDPE2 symbol is not a guarantee of a food safe product

New buckets:

  1. If the label or the manufacturer/retailer says it's food grade then use it.
  2. If there is an HDPE 2 symbol on the bottom of the bucket but no food grade label or manufacturer to call, don't use it. It may not be food grade. Some HDPE 2 pails are food grade and some aren't.

Used buckets:

Each bucket is regulated for a specific use by the FDA. The reason is that chemicals from the plastic can leach out and wind
up in your food, beer, wine or whatever you put back into the pail.

Because of that, used buckets can be a problem depending on what was originally stored in them. Use these guidelines to help:

If the original food from the pail:

  • was high in acid
  • had alcohol in it
  • had fats or oil in it
  • had very strong flavored food or liquid in it (spices-herbs)

 DON'T use it.

*Unless you're planning on putting the same food or liquid back into it that it previously had in it. These foods contain
compounds that get bound up within the pores of the plastic and will migrate back out into the new contents of the pail.


An example would be if you want to ferment wine but the pail had dill pickles or relish in it. These "flavors" would leach
back out of the plastic to give your wine an off-taste and weird aromas. But if you want to fill it back up with relish or pickles then that would be just fine.


For this reason don't use any buckets that have had solvents, paint, gas, oil, or any chemicals in it.

If you don't know the history of the food grade pail then don't use it.

Or use a pail liner (see below).



Try Food Grade Bucket Liners For an Even Bigger Cost Savings!

Sometimes a bucket liner is all you need and way more cost effective. These pail liners come on a roll of 25. It works out to about .65 cents each.


Image of a 5 gallon food grade pail linerCheap food grade bucket liners

Some people use them for:

  • brining
  • marinating
  • fermenting wine and beer
  • food storage-(rice,wheat,grain etc.)
  • dog food



But use common sense here:

  1. Use your hand and carefully search and then smooth out any nicks inside the plastic bucket so the liner doesn't rip open.
  2. Make sure the lid seals tight where the plastic folds over the rim of the bucket.


Just recycle the bag after each use and enjoy not having to clean up the pail!


How to Identify Food Grade Buckets

Food grade buckets are made from a purer "virgin" form of plastic resin than regular pails.  

In North America that means the pail needs to be labeled:

  • food-contact safe
  • food storage approved
  • food safe etc.

Or:  Sold as a food grade bucket by the manufacturer or retailer but without any labeling.

Tip:

NSF-2 or NSF/ANSI 2 standard is not always "food grade" either - both of these symbols could mean the item is certified for either food contact or non-food contact use. (This info comes directly from NSF to me during email communication).


It would be nice if there existed a symbol that was impregnated into the plastic that designated the bucket as food-contact
safe. But there isn't one...

But What About This Symbol?

Image showing the European Union glass and fork symbol  found on food grade productsThe European Union glass and fork symbol means food-contact safe

Ahaa! The wine glass/ fork symbol is a food-contact safe symbol. It's been mandatory in Europe since 2004 but sadly no such regulation exists in North America yet.

The glass and fork image is molded right in to the plastic so there's no guesswork whether it's food safe or not. The way it should be.

If you come across a product with this on it then yes - it is food safe.

What Color of Bucket is Food Grade?

An image showing Colored food-certified buckets made from plastic pellets

Color doesn't matter.  

There are some food dyes that ARE certified for use in food grade plastics. That means food grade buckets can come in many colors. Not just white.

As far as sizes go - you don't see many colored food safe buckets out there larger than 5 gallons.

That means:

  • 6 gallon
  • 6.5 gallon
  • 7.9 gallon buckets

Will most likely be found mainly in white or translucent.

Keep the color in mind if you'll be storing the pail in the sun for any length of time. Darker colors absorb sunlight and can warm the contents up inside the bucket pretty good.



Is There Recycled Plastic In Your Food Grade Bucket?

Infographic showing a bucket with a recycling symbol on it and recyclable materials in the backgroundSome food grade pails may contain recycled plastic in them

There could be. The manufacturer has to submit and satisfy the FDA's criteria for using recycled plastics in food-contact
items such as buckets. If they do that then there is recycled plastic in that manufacturers product.


Who Are the FDA?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They regulate everything added to food as well as how the food is processed,
packaged and labeled. Companies then need to comply with these regulations.

Who Are NSF International?

An independent health and safety organization. They develop standards and certifications through third party testing and
random audits. There are other third-party certification companies out there as well.


If you see their logo on a bucket it does not mean it's food safe, or in fact anything to do with the bucket itself. They
certify contents within the bucket as well and that could be the reason for the NSF mark.


What the Heck Do All These Symbols Mean?

Infographic of a question mark with recycling symbols within itRecycling symbols are for sorting plastics

The symbols or numbers with the arrows going around them on the bottom of plastic containers are called resin identification codes. They tell you what type of plastic (resin) it's made from. They don't tell you if it's food-contact certified.


These symbols were put in place to help homeowners etc. decide whether the item is recyclable or not. It also helps the recycler's who sort them.

They do not mean that the item has recycled plastic in it either. It may or it may not.

For a complete description of the above recycling symbols see the American Chemistry Council (pdf).   


Take No Chances!

To be 100% sure that a pail is food safe:

  • buy them from a trustworthy source who clearly states that they are food grade buckets
  • read the label if there is one
  • call the manufacturer (usually impregnated on the bottom of the bucket)


The last thing you want to do is talk yourself into using a sketchy pail. Your health really is the most precious thing you own.



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