Food Grade vs. Industrial Grade: Do The Differences Matter?
Updated: Oct 4
There’s this basic idea that industrial-grade and food-grade tanks are the same thing, and that it doesn’t matter which one you use. This is not true at all. Grade labels exist for a reason, so of course there is a reason why it would matter.
Industrial-grade is meant mostly for general use. Factories, construction sites, supermarkets, and entertainment studios use this grade for a variety of purposes (the latter of which we kinda appeal to). Food-grade is meant for exactly what it says it’s for: food (and drinks too). That’s about as simple as you can get. But it is very important that chefs and restaurants use a food-grade tank and not and industrial one.
What’s the Big Deal?
So we already focused a bit on what the basic difference between Industrial and food-grade tanks are, but what exactly makes it suitable for different industries? Simple: the impurities. They are contaminants that are inserted in the tank along with the gas itself, and they usually consist of 1% oxygen, hydrocarbons, benzene, acetaldehyde, or ethylene to name a few. The other 99% of it would be the gas you paid money for, whether its industrial-grade propane, food-grade CO2, whatever. They help add to what makes each gas tank suitable for their intended application.
Contaminants will affect how pure the gas is. Gas tanks have to have a certain level of purity in order for them to be allowed anywhere in the work field. There is a grading system that industrial gas cylinders go through that will determine its purity level. Usually, industrial gases are required to earn at least a 99% purity rating. Some require a stricter 99.9% score. Food-grade cylinders especially need this score to be deemed viable for food prep, and guess who rates its purity level? If you guessed the FDA, you’d be right.
How Dangerous is it Using the Wrong Grade?
How about we tackle this question with an example. Purity levels are typically expected to be pretty high, but one of the purest grades would be medical-grade. Gas tanks used in the medical field require a near perfect 99.9999% purity rating. Such a high purity rating makes it suitable for medical purposes, and for good reason too. Surgeons and other doctors use medical-grade helium usually for cooling MRI machines and treating asthma. Now remember, some of these gases can be operated on machinery and even human patients. If another grade of gas was used instead of the pure medical-grade, especially on patients, who knows just what sort of side effects can occur when the wrong types or amount of impurities enter certain machines, or worse, the human body.
The nature of gas impurities is significant enough it keep in mind, as some of them are actually capable of damaging machines or making them not perform as well as they’re expected to. Now granted, the impurities in medical-grade gases usually only include oxygen (about 0.0001%-1% of it, depending on the gas). You won’t be finding stuff like benzene or acetaldehyde in there, but you probably would in other grades. But using industrial grade in medical equipment and human patients is a big no!
In the food industry, the wrong impurities will contaminate drinks and food. If someone were to eat or drink something that gets them terribly sick, the ingredients, equipment, and kitchen will be inspected. Gases are used in soft drinks, brewery, and sometimes in foods, so if during inspection, an improper grade is discovered, you would be held accountable to the point where legal action can be taken. It’s especially important if you’re going to be cooking with gases, whether it’d be grilling, molecular gastronomy, or other methods of cooking involving gas. Even professional chefs know how important a slight difference in the quality of ingredients will change the final dish’s flavor. Regardless of whether you’re using it for cooking, soda carbonation, or even long-term refrigeration, you’d need to make sure you’re getting a food-grade cylinder.
The wrong impurities in the wrong place, and things can go wrong. It can damage equipment and can be considered a health hazard. To avoid any potential mishaps, it’s your responsibility to request the correct grade. If there are any more concerns you have in regards to some technical information about what grades are recommended for your purpose, you can always ask us. We carry a small variety of gases, especially if we’re talkin’ CO2. We don’t service the medical field, so we don’t carry medical-grade gas tanks, but industrial-grade and food-grade tanks we do have. If you’re in need of gas cylinders for special effects, soft drinks, food preparation, or a variety of other industrial applications, we can get you hooked up with as many as you need. If for any reason you’re not entirely sure which grade you should use, you can always either do a quick search on the matter, or could contact us and ask a rep for their opinion.