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Why Nibble Safe chose silicone for their products

In this Blog post, we interview Ellen, the founder of Nibble Safe, a children's brand that specializes in silicone products. They are dedicated to making the safest possible products for children using USA manufacturing, premium materials, and exhaustive testing.
Sep 18, 2021

How did you come up with the idea for Nibble Safe?

Ellen: When my son was teething, all he wanted to do was grab the dirtiest most BPA-laden objects and pop them straight in his mouth. I did everything I could to make his environment free from germs and chemicals but it's nearly impossible and, honestly, exhausting. At a restaurant one night, my son wouldn't stop chewing on a gross table edge when he was sitting in his highchair. Turns out, toddlers in highchairs sit at the perfect height to gnaw on the edge of the table (bonus points if you can lick the bottom). I searched the internet for a reusable placemat that would cover the edge of the table – there were plenty of options but I couldn't find one that was quite right. So I decided to make my own.

What makes Nibble Safe special?

Ellen: There are a million baby brands that promise the same things (safe, clean, blah blah blah). At Nibble Safe, we have taken the more difficult and costly approach to ensure higher quality and safety at every step along the way. Here's what we can promise that other brands can't:

  1. Made in the USA
  2. Platinum-cured silicone
  3. All claims verified by an independent lab
  4. Recyclable silicone and packaging
  5. Mom-owned and made with love

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Check out a selection of Nibble Safe products on Leleki.

What is Silicone and why did you chose it as material for you placemats? (vs plastic or rubber)

Ellen: Silicone is a polymer made from refining silica, which is a major part of sand, with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. it is molded under high pressure and heat. Plastic suffers from leaching, whereas silicone is far more chemically stable. In addition to this, silicone is: durable yet soft on children's mouths, withstands high and low temperatures, doesn't stain readily, and is naturally hypoallergenic. Rubber has some of the same properties as silicone, but is not as durable, has latex (which can cause allergic reactions), and breaks down in UV light.

We hear silicone being labeled in so many different ways when looking at different baby products  (food-grade, 100% silicone, BPA-free silicone, etc.). What types of silicone are used for baby products and what are the differences between them?

Ellen: It is frustrating how confusing this can be! Especially because many of the claims made can be independent of one another, and others claims are pointless.

  • 100% Silicone: So, a 100% silicone claim is not technically correct, but commonly seen. Any colored silicon (including solid white) will have pigment in it, so even if you see the 100% silicone label, it is good to be aware that there are still additives (e.g., pigments) in it. Note that approved pigments aren't dangerous.
  • Food-Grade Silicone: Silicone is certified as food-grade by laboratories that check that the manufactured item does not contain any dangerous chemicals through testing (e.g., banned substances, including toxic pigments). The FDA writes the rules for the US, while other organizations write the rules for Europe. Food-grade silicone is what we use at Nibble Safe.
  • Medical-Grade Silicone: Medical-grade silicone is separated into 6 classes based on the nature and duration of tissue contact. Animal testing is then used to measure the negative effects from the manufactured item. The FDA again oversees medical certification in the US. Medical-grade silicone should pass food-grade tests, but the item needs to be certified separately for food-grade applications. Our products are not medical-grade because our manufactured items have not gone through animal testing. Note that testing is critical for both food-grade and medical-grade silicone. The companies that make raw silicone identify which products are for food or medical applications. However, silicone requires very specific parameters for molding and could be contaminated along the way. Therefore claims must be based on testing the product after it's manufactured.
  • Platinum-Cured Silicone: there are two ways of curing silicone: (1) peroxide-cured (also called free radical-cured) and (2) platinum-cured. Peroxide-cured silicone is more common. However, this way of curing can leave behind byproducts, that can lead to potential leaching in the final product. Platinum-cured silicone has no byproducts from curing, but is more expensive. This is what we use. If a manufacturer does not specify that they use platinum-cured silicone, it is likely to be peroxide-cured as the cost difference is significant. By the way, a misconception we see is that the EU food-grade standards don't allow peroxide-cured silicone. This is incorrect: LFGB and BfR requirements do not prohibit peroxide-cured silicone.
  • Other Claims: Claims of BPA-free, etc can be made after specific lab tests are conducted to measure for those substances.

How are products like Nibble Safe placemat regulated?

Ellen: All products for children in the US are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC bans the use of lead and Phthalates, and has some other requirements. The FDA regulates things that comes into contact with food. The FDA has specific formulation and lab test requirements. These tests measure degradation of silicone when placed in high temperature baths of various liquids. All these tests are expensive, and need to be done on each color. Unfortunately, CPSC requirements, and especially the 'food-grade' label seem to be thrown around casually. For example, in 2019 several baby products that were labeled as safe were found to have banned substances - clearly manufacturers weren't being honest about testing [1, 2].

You manufacture your products in the US, even though you could probably do it cheaper somewhere else. Why is manufacturing in the US important to you?

Ellen: There's no doubt we could manufacture outside the US to save cost and increase our margin, but that's not our goal. Simply put, our number one priority is keeping kids safe and by manufacturing locally we can ensure the quality of our product. The US also has strong regulations for workers and the environment that align with our values. Our carbon footprint is also smaller since our products don't have to take a long journey via ships or airplanes. Lastly, the electricity consumed while making our product comes from a cleaner source in the US than abroad.

How do you ensure quality in every placemat?

Ellen: We've done this at multiple levels in our supply chain. Our manufacturer adheres to formal quality guidelines, and then we personally inspect each placemat. For each purity claim we make (e.g. BPA-free), we send the placemats to an independent lab located in the US for confirmation.

Sustainability is increasingly important to many parents - how does sustainability play into what you do?

Ellen: Sustainability is one of the key pillars of our company. We've setup our supply chain for sustainability as referenced above and ship our products in plastic-free packaging. We also offer complimentary recycling of our placemat, where a customer can send it back to us and we will recycle the silicone in a specialized facility. Lastly, we are currently working on becoming carbon neutral - we will offset all of the carbon emissions from the entire life cycle of our products.

What's next for Nibble Safe?

Ellen: The placemat was born out of a personal need. In the beginning, I was naive about the wide spectrum of quality and purity of baby products. Now I see a need to manufacture more everyday baby products, but with safer, higher quality silicone. We are currently in the development phase of our next product.






Leleki does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your care provider / a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns.