The Truth about Foam Safety

September 04, 2012

The safety of foam, sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Styrofoam®” which is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and how it relates to the food service industry continues to be debated by consumers, politicians, and environmentalists. But what’s it all about? Does the everyday consumer really have reason to worry their foam coffee cup will harm them?

The answer is no.

From takeout containers to foam cups, American consumers are exposed to many different types of foam products daily. Since polystyrene foam has been shown to be more effective at insulating both hot and cold foods and liquids, foam is the takeout container of choice for many food service providers. So it’s no wonder that health concerns sometimes arise among some consumers.

The truth of the matter, though, is that polystyrene foam was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over 50 years ago and has been tested time and again with the same results: it is safe to use in food transport and continually meets all safety and health requirements to interact with food [2].

As for the building block of polystyrene–a chemical called “styrene”–it, too, is safe in the small amounts we sometimes encounter in air or food. Modern man has known about styrene for centuries. A naturally occurring substance, styrene is present in many foods and beverages, including wheat, beef, strawberries, peanuts and coffee beans. Also found in the spice cinnamon, its chemical structure is similar to cinnamic aldehyde, the chemical component that elicits cinnamon’s flavor. It is naturally present to flavor foods, and is used as a flavoring additive to such food as baked goods, frozen dairy products, soft candy, and gelatins and puddings, with permission from the FDA [3].

1. Plastic Food Service Facts
2. You Know Styrene