What is FDA, 3A, & NSF?


What is FDA, 3A, & NSF? Food Grade & Potable Water.

Whitepapers On Whiteboard







Don Grawe



FDA, 3A, and NSF are common standards for the production of o-rings within the food grade and potable water industries. Each standard is derived from a different agency who contains unique sets of rules, requirements, and regulations.

They are very different, and very specific in their place in the market.


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Welcome to our next installment of not all o-rings are created equal. Today, I thought we would take a little bit of time to talk about the differences in FDA, 3A, and NSF. These are common standards in the North American marketplace that seemed to have a lot of confusion about certifications, validations, approvals etc. We’re going to try and simplify it a little bit and then in future editions will get into greater detail to each. Again, specific to North America – the China GB4806 the European WRAS – those are standards to be addressed another time as well. But in general, as we talk about food grade and potable water, there are three standards that in the production of o-rings you need to be able to consider and be aware of; and those specifically being FDA, 3A, and NSF.

What is FDA?

FDA is the standards that are derived and managed by the Food and Drug Administration. What this is, is simply a list of ingredients that are neither toxic nor carcinogenic that can be included in the formulations of compounds for o-rings.

They go through a series of extraction testing so that as the o-rings are in use in application, what is leaching of those o-rings that may or may not create a problem. Once that is done, the o-rings and the o-ring material is deemed to meet FDA requirements. Not to be confused with being certified.

The FDA does not certify o-ring materials or compounds but rather creates a list of acceptable ingredients.

What is 3A Sanitary?

The next one we want to talk about is 3A. It is not, despite what some people might believe, part of FDA. It is derived from the International Association of Milk, Food, and Environmental Standards. A secondary group is the Milk and Dairy Supplier Association. What 3A does is it determines the rubber that’s capable of contact with antibacterial treatments and the maintaining of the physical properties of the o-ring after those treatments.

As you can imagine in in the milk production world, there’s a lot of chemicals. There’s a lot that goes on in order to continue to service that equipment. What is the o-ring able to survive in that environment? There’s also an E3A Standard – basically similar to the 3A standard, but specific to egg production.

What is NSF?

Finally, we’re going to talk about NSF. NSF not to be confused with the Food and Drug Administration or the Dairy Group, but it is specific to the National Sanitation Foundation. NSF has two primary standards or certifications that we need to be aware of:

  1. NSF 51 – specific to food and beverage applications.
  2. NSF 61 – specific to potable water.

With the NSF and the various testing that is required in order to meet those approvals, the NSF does the testing and does, in fact, certify to the compounds, to the materials for their standards.

FDA, 3A, NSF. They’re not all equal. They’re very different and very specific in their place in the market.