“Food safe” is not an actual regulatory term, it’s marketing lingo. Approval for food contact varies by country and application but in general is contingent on the specific food being handled, and how. First the material must be safe for the application, and then it must be processed in a way suitable for the application, and then it must be used in a safe way. That whole process must be auditable and is what the government looks at, not just the raw material.
There are multiple issues to worry about:
- Whether the plastic leeches chemicals (eg food-grade ABS and polystyrene is widely used for packaging, but it is not suitable for contact with fats/oils)
- Whether the plastic absorbs or is damaged by the specific food (eg nylon is attacked by acids like citrus)
- Whether the product can be properly cleaned and sterilized between uses (eg if it has pores the answer is generally no UNLESS you can autoclave it)
As far as your personal safety goes — not poisoning yourself or getting salmonella — almost any 3D printer filament from the US or EU is perfectly fine for whatever you want to do. Some guidelines:
- No hot beverages in any printed plastic (and tbh probably shouldn’t put hot beverages in plastic at all to be safe, at least for kids and nursing/pregnant women)
- Natural/clear color filament (no pigment) is ideal. White and black filament are the safest pigments (titanium dioxide and carbon black) but only from highly reputable US/EU vendors (like Taulman) to avoid contamination. Never use cheap Chinese black for food contact, there are known cases of them hiding toxic junk in the black.
- If you use a printed part for prep of non-cooked foods (like slicing raw vegetables), meats, or egg-containing products like cookie dough, run the part through a modern dishwasher with a “sanitize” cycle between uses (or just make it one-time use)
- ABS is fine for dry foods, PETG and PLA and Nylon are better choices for wet food contact