Ask the Contractor: Food Zone Certified quartz is available

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I have heard there is a brand of Quartz countertop material called Quantra and supposedly this brand of quartz is Food Zone Certified where other companies that manufacture quartz materials are not Food Zone Certified. Are you aware of this?

— Margaret and Ted, Prescott

Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on the Earth’s crust, coming in second after feldspar, the crystal aspects that are evident throughout the stone can make it sparkle. Quartz can be found on all corners of the globe, however, the largest crystals have been found in Brazil. Quartz surface products are continually gaining in popularity and are becoming preferred over granite products due to engineered quartz requiring less maintenance at times. The color and texture of its surface is more consistent than natural stone, and the binding agents allow some flexibility in handling and fabrication. It is also more resistant to mold and mildew then traditional stone making it more hygienic. Engineered Quartz is a man-made composite material made of crushed stone bound together by a polymer resin.

Breton SPA, is the original and dominant supplier of engineered quartz equipment and now there are now several other companies producing equipment in China that is similar, but not up to the same standards. In the late 1980s, Breton S.P.A., a privately held company in Treviso, Italy, introduced a composite material made of crushed stone bound together by a polymer resin glue they named Bretonstone®. Bretonstone® has since become known as engineered stone or engineered quartz manufacturer, and supplier of equipment to fabricate such brands as Quantra.

By 2012, China had become the biggest producer of engineered quartz surfaces in the world, having more than 100 quartz surface producers in China today. Most of these producers are Original Equipment Manufacture contractors who produce quartz surfaces on a contractual basis for many Bretonstone® competitors. These companies are not being regulated for the chemicals used in their resins, most containing harmful VOC’s (Volatile organic compounds), like Benzene, Toluene and Styrene. All of which are considered carcinogenic and extremely harmful to humans. These are not found in Quantra. Quantra is Food Zone Certified by the NSF!

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF), the Public Health and Safety Organization, which is an organization that develops public health standards for products in the food, water and consumer goods industries, globally. Manufacturers from around the globe seek a NSF Certification, by submitting their products to NSF for evaluation and testing. If full compliance is met, the products receive an official NSF certification listing, which allows manufactures to mark their goods as certified products.

The NSF Food Equipment Certification Program has 22 different food equipment standards that establish the minimum food protection and sanitation requirements for the materials, design, fabrication, construction and performance of food handling and processing equipment. Engineered quartz falls under the standard which contains requirements for toxicological safety, smoothness, clean ability and corrosion resistance of the materials, also known as NSF/ANSI 51 standards, which are designed in a manner that classifies different surfaces or areas of equipment into defined zones of exposure, which are:

Food Zones: are any surfaces intended to be exposed to direct food contact or surfaces which consumable food or condensation may contact and then drain, drip, or splash back onto food or food contact surfaces. Materials certified for use in a food zone are also suitable for use in Splash and Nonfood Zones.

Splash Zones: are areas that are exposed to routine soiling from splashes and spills but are not surfaces intended for contact with consumable food. Materials certified for splash zones are not certified for use in Food Zones.

Nonfood Zones: are an area that are not exposed to food or splashes but may be subject to some minor dirt and debris.

Requirements differ by zone; while all solid surfacing is evaluated for smoothness, clean-ability and corrosion resistance requirements, only solid surfacing certified for Food Zone meets the requirements for toxicological safety. Certified surfaces for use in Food Zones may be used for countertops, table tops, or other surfaces in which food contact is intended. Surfacing materials certified for Splash Zone should not be used on any surfaces intended for food contact.

Most of China’s engineered quartz producers are getting their products certified by the NSF as Splash Zone safe. The Splash Zone standard is allowing companies to appear safe for kitchens and food contact areas, but they have not been tested for their chemical makeup.

The NSF/ ANSI standards make it very difficult for Chinese or any NON Food Zone Certified engineered quartz to be used in Commercial and Multi Family projects.

There is certainly more to be said about the subject, but customers interested in engineered quartz should specify Food Zone Certified engineered quartz, like Quantra, for all your projects. Quantra is sold locally by Greenlee Designer Surfaces and fabricated locally by Artisan Stone Surfaces.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” every Saturday or Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130am/99.9 FM and 95.5 FM or the web at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more. You will be entertained.