Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reusable Sandwich Bags and Wraps Are Taking Over the World Like Wildfire and Some of Them Are Unsafe...

…what’s worse is your child’s lunch may be wrapped up in one right now. (Keep reading to find out how to WIN in my Reusable Snack Bag Giveaway!) A reusable sandwich bag or wrap is supposed to free you from using thousands of plastic baggies every year. It is a great choice, economically and environmentally, to switch to reusable containers in packing lunches and stop using disposables.
UPDATE: March 20, 2012-Many of you have asked for direct links to products made from polyurethane coated nylon that are used for food purposes. I have a list of sites on another posting on this blog, but to make it easier for you to find it look here: http://4girlsdesignsblog.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2010-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=13 See Monday, September 14
I would also like to add that I am not trying to scare anyone, or make you feel like you have to buy my bags. That has never been my intention. The reason I started this blog was to share the information that I had been able to find on this subject.  I have since added information for you to purchase the same materials yourself and make them yourself. I hope that what I have done has helped others.  I am sure that PUL is a wonderful product but the fact is it has not been approved as a food safe product.  I have nothing against the product being used for other purposes. I have used it to make wheelchair cushion covers and have been very happy with it's properties.
  UPDATE: March 29, 2010- I am still seeing many sellers using unsafe materials. If you choose to purchase the coated rip-stop nylon lining PLEASE be sure the seller has the shiny, coated side away from your food. It saddens me to see someone selling bags made out of just rip stop nylon with the shiny side on the inside of the bag where your family's food will be stored. That is unsafe. Don't use those. Also, just on a structural note: make sure they are sewing at least twice around the edges of the VELCRO closure or it will not last. Look carefully at these safety and functional details prior to purchasing food bags.
Many, many, sandwich bags have been made with PUL fabric which is NOT considered to be food safe by the FDA. Despite the fact that this is noted on the vendor’s websites, and the manufacturer’s web site, people are still out there, on thousands of blogs and forums, telling each other to go ahead and use it and sell it to others. Although PUL is a fascinating fabric, it is not designed for, nor does it meet, the standard of materials that are in contact with food. PUL stands for a cotton or polyester knit fabric that has a laminate layer on one side. It was made for a variety of purposes, like hazard-mat suits, hospital bedding, shoes, and somewhere along the line was embraced by those making their own diapers. Now the latest trend with PUL is to make the reusable sandwich bags/wraps out of it.

This is what the manufacturer says about the product PUL:
Fabuthane® PUL is used in the following applications:
1. Apparel
2. Footwear
3. Inflatables
4. Medical
5. Protective coatings
6. Transportation

This is what two of the leading vendors of PUL say:

  • Celtic Cloth: “No, PUL has not been approved as food safe.”

  • Neptune Fabrics: Is PUL fabric food-safe? Can it be used to make reusable sandwich bags? Unfortunately, the polyurethane laminate on our PUL fabric is not USDA-or FDA-approved for direct food contact. They suggest if the user wants to use PUL in the sandwich bag, they need to have a separate fabric layer between the PUL and the sandwich (food). (Crafter’s if you are making your bags out of PUL please follow this suggestion, for the safety of yourself and those you are selling to.)

  • Another maker of PUL food sacks argues that she has done her homework, still insisting that it is safe and she lists THIS outdoor dog gear shop to “prove” PUL is safe. However, I searched the entire site and found only references to polyurethane coated nylon material being used. The PUL user goes on further, telling the purchaser to “use lemon juice and lots of sunlight to get the mildew out” of the PUL liner. I include this only to say to sellers, be sure of what you are selling. And to buyers, be sure of what you are buying. The product was not made for this purpose and this is one of the way’s it is showing that.

    We have to label PUL fabric as UNSAFE for reusable sandwich bags and wraps.

    There are some other UNSAFE practices going on out there: using old vinyl shower curtains, using vinyl tablecloths, modern version of “oil cloth”

    More Choices:
    SAFE: Home made oil cloth, or beeswax cloth, are useful for this purpose. Modern “oil cloth” is really just a nasty vinyl product. You can find instructions online for the oil cloth as well as the beeswax. I am partial toward the beeswax cloth for all the healthy things associated with it, and I love the smell of beeswax!

    SAFE: Plain cotton material is available. Here, know where your fabric is coming from and what hazards to look for. There have been many issues of late with foreign made fabric being printed with high levels of metal. Buy only the best fabrics, from reputable shops. Some prefer only the organic cotton, inside and out. That is considered safe, however, you lose the waterproof capabilities of other materials. That means your sandwich may leak onto what is around the bag, or your bread may get dried out. It is a safe choice however.

    SAFE: Polyurethane coated nylon is water, stain-, mildew-, abrasion- and rot- resistant.
    We know that to be internationally marketed these products had to be carefully tested and we see they are both using the polyurethane coated nylon material. This material meets the demands of the consumer: water-, stain-, mildew-, abrasion-. rot-resistant, free of heavy metals and phthalates, PBBs, and PBDEs. It is also widely available to crafters .

    • Snack Taxis (formerly Happy Sacks) recently featured on Oprah: SnackTAXIs are lined with a waterproof material that consists of nylon with a polyurethane coating. After talking to many manufacturers of this product, we understand that this type of coated nylon is free of heavy metals and phthalates. The tests revealed that the nylon is free of heavy metals (including lead), phthalates, PBBs, and PBDEs.
    • WallabyBags They're laminated on the inside with polyurethane, which is food safe and widely used in the food industry from food manufacturing and packaging to food storage. They are water proof, so they're perfect for keeping your sandwich fresh, as well as packing messier take-alongs like fruit….they are machine washable and dry-able.
    • GO GREEN POUCHES : The sandwich size pouch will neatly fit your large sandwich, bagel or wrap. Dimensions 7.5"W x 6.0"H Material 100% cotton, lining 100% nylon.
    I am not a scientist. All I can do is gather as much information as possible and make a reasonable conclusion based on the facts I find. Based on my preliminary study, and now confirmed with these results, I have chosen polyurethane coated nylon (with the coated side as the underside, so the coating is not touching the food) and cotton. I chose cotton because of all the beautiful fabric choices available. I already had the nylon for other projects and love it’s durability and it’s use for holding food and water. It has been tested, and it is an FDA approved material. You can purchase several different styles of bags and wraps from me. I also sell cotton napkins to go with them. I have a fold-over design that is based on the style of sandwich bags I grew up with, and it is VELCRO free. It is also quiet! So if you have little ones that still need a snack in church, or a quiet meeting, get this one. I also sell the bags with VELCRO across the top opening. If you need a special size, send me a message. I can do a limited amount of custom work. I am very excited about my newest product a Wrap ‘n Tray : you wrap your sandwich in and when you sit down to eat it, just open up the sides and it forms a tray, with sides! I even have special Happy Birthday bags

    Please visit my etsy store (
    www.4girlsdesigns.etsy.com) and see the variety available.

    Let’s educate our children on the most eco-friendly ways and invite them to be a part of it. They can pick the style, fabric, shape, etc. with my store items. I also get them to you much faster! You can get a multi-item discount, as well as low combined shipping. I seek to supply you with the best materials for a safe lunch, and also the best fabric for a fun lunch, and faster service for your immediate lunch needs. I offer 100% cotton, inside and out, if you prefer that. I am a Mom and have the exciting privilege of raising my kids, and the blessing of time they give me to sew!

    Please check out this site: Environmental Working Group for some great kid-friendly menu suggestions and eco friendly lunch-packing tips.


    1. Thank you for sharing this information. Came across your blog from teamecoetsy. Appreciate the time involved to research and willingness to inform to help us all.

      Jane aka zJayne

    2. I'm not sure why polyurethane coated nylon would be better than polyurethane coated poly or cotton (PUL)..I think the laminate layer is the same?

    3. They are not the same. PUL manufacturers will confirm this.

    4. Thanks for all your research! Are you saying that Ripstop Nylon is not a good choice either?

    5. Ripstop nylon has been used as food stuff sacks. If you use the coated rip stop, make certain you have the coated(shiny)side away from your food.

    6. Thank you for your time researching all this. I purchased Polyurethane coated nylon ripstop from Seattle Fabrics. I am making a lunch bag and sandwich wrap for my son. Just so I understand correctly, should I put the back of the fabric facing the food, or the front (with the grid design on it?) They both look shiny to me! Thanks for your time.

    7. If you use a ripstop nylon that does not have any coating on it, is this ok to use too? will it keep the snacks fresh? Thanks again!

    8. Hi, You say this material is widely available to crafters, but I cannot find a supplier. I am in Australia.

    9. I bought some ripstop at Joanns and it says 100% Nylon. The workers are pretty sure it does not have Poly coating on it since it just says 100% Nylon and both sides look the same (both sides have grid). If it had a Poly coating would it only just say 100% Nylon. Thoughts? Thanks!

    10. Allison: The shiny side is the poly side and that should face away from your food, no contact with the food.
      Colleen and Allison: shiny side away from food, usually the rip-stop showing the squares is the uncoated side. Rip-stop is considered safe. If it is coated you can usually see it, and the bolt should indicate that as well. It would say "coated" rip-stop nylon.
      Stanley: I only know PUL manufacturers say it is not food safe. There may be other issues with the materials used in PUL, or the manufacturing method they use to adhere it. I have listed more recently on this blog sources and references that use and approve of the materials listed as "Food safe".
      diaperfabrics: I know that the mass manufacturers of reusable food bags have had to go through extensive testing to be approved for food use in the US market. As none of them have used PUL, I have to disagree with you that PUL is made from the same food safe materials. The mass manufacturers of food-safe bags are using the same materials I am using. I think that PUL is a wonderful product that performs like no other in it's own area of use. Food safe bags do not fall into that approved area however.

    11. thank you so much for the information you provided. as we are trying to be "more green" we want safe materials to wrap our children's food in. I just recently ordered a sandwich wrap from you for my daughter. I can wait for it to arrive.

    12. great information! i'm having a hard time finding the poly coated nylon anywhere, but after reading the comments, realize that the ripstop nylon is okay too, which seems to be more readily available.

      thank you so much!

    13. great content..I loved to read it..thanks for all the info

      Reusable Containers

    14. I really appreciate all your research and for sharing the info you learned. I have some fleece lying around and was wondering if you thought I could make a snack bag out of that if I line it with the rip stop nylon safely? Thanks for your help.

    15. The makers of Babyville PUL state on their site that their PUL is food safe.


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