I recently purchased some five gallon buckets at Wal-Mart that I thought would be considered food-grade. I’m afraid these are probably the paint buckets you recently warned against, but I read elsewhere on the web that if there was a “2” inside of the recycle-symbol on the bottom of the bucket, the bucket would be considered food-grade. If these are unsuitable, do you mind going into a little more detail as to why? Thanks, – Ben J.
JWR Replies: The number 2 (with the number inside the “chasing arrows” symbol) refers to HDPE, but not all “2” marked plastics are food grade. Let me explain: The “food grade” designation is determined by plastic purity by and what mold release compound is used–not by the plastic itself, since all virgin HDPE material is safe for food. For paint buckets, manufacturers sometimes use a less expensive (and toxic) mold release compound. For food grade they must use a more expensive formulation that is non-toxic. Unless the buckets that you bought are are marked “food grade”, (or, marked NSF, FDA, or USDA approved), then you will have to check with the manufacturer’s web site to see if they make all food grade buckets. For more details, see the information at this barbecue and brining web site.