Food-Grade Lubricants Result In Good Business $ense

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Today, while many food manufacturers are aware of the importance of food-grade lubrication, there are still a large handful of industrial grade lubricants being used in food handling equipment, which are harmful when consumed.

Health and safety are crucial priorities in the food manufacturing process. Hygiene standards are extremely stringent on the plant floor. As far as possible, manufacturers strive to avoid all forms of toxic contamination that are harmful for consumption. Today, while many food manufacturers are aware of the importance of food-grade lubrication, there are still a large handful of industrial grade lubricants being used in food handling equipment, which are harmful when consumed.

Due to this, health authorities in several countries are enforcing heavy penalties on food safety negligence that may cause contamination, especially after recent food scares happening around the world. When food contamination is detected, brand reputation will be affected, and consumers will lose trust in a certain brand’s food products as well, thus leading to costly recalls.

So, what are food-grade lubricants, exactly? Food-grade lubricants are acceptable for use in meat, poultry, pharmaceutical and other food processing equipment. They are made from components approved by food safety authorities for incidental contact with food. The food-grade credibility can easily be checked on respective governing bodies such as NSF International and InS Services.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created food-grade designations such as H1, H2, H3 and 3H. The approval and registration of a new lubricant under such categories are largely dependent on the ingredients used in the formulation.

The three designations and elaboration are listed as follows

Having known the different categories in detail, doubt may still linger. There are many common myths and misconceptions about the performance and implementation of food-grade lubricants.

As food contamination may come from many various sources, one should not take any chances with the lubrication used. Thus, food manufacturers should not dispel the idea of food-grade lubrication because of rumours.

As a good practice, it is always advisable to use H1 lubricants in the food processing plant if possible. Even though H2 is also has a food-grade certification, it should strictly have no contact with the food product. By streamlining all the lubricants used in the food processing plant to H1 certified lubricants, plant managers can lower risks and better control their lubricant inventory.


Find out the truth behind those myths below:

Myth 1: Food-grade lubricants’ performance is inferior to conventional lubricants and do not meet demands.

Fact 1: If mineral-based food-grade lubricants are in question, this myth be true. Mineral oils consist of medicinal quality white oils and vegetable oils. White oils are highly refined to remove any undesirable aromatic or sulphur constituents. However, this process also removes beneficial components that are essential to lubricate machineries. Vegetable oils, on the other hand, are not designed to cope with the demands of food and beverage or high temperature processing equipment and can cause issues for processing plants when such oils break down. When these oils break down, there will be changes in smell, formation of sludge, and bacteria growth. Poor wear protection of equipment becomes inevitable and causes highly undesirable situations for plants.

Food-grade synthetic lubricants are specially formulated to be odourless and tasteless; they also generally outperform mineral oil-based lubricants. Synthetics are specially engineered for high performance and can remain effective in sub-zero temperatures and high-heat scenarios to ultimately lower maintenance costs. With ever-improving technology, food-grade lubricants have quality performances that are on par or even better than industrial ones.


Myth 2: Food-grade lubricants cost much more than conventional oils.

Fact 2: Synthetic food-grade lubricants indeed have higher initial costs compared to traditional mineral oils. However, if we were to factor in the qualities of synthetics that will reap subsequent returns against which food-grade mineral-based lubricants cannot compete, synthetics are actually cheaper. Synthetic food-grade lubricants essentially cost less in the long run as they reduce overall maintenance costs, have longer service life and are required to be replaced less frequently in machineries.


Myth 3: There is no need for lubricants since the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) does not state or require them for food safety.

Fact 3: The OEM manual is always a good reference to identify lubricant selection requirements. OEM manuals will be adequate most of the time, however, some OEMs know less about machinery lubrication than their customers, which leads to too much freedom for interpretation. Typically, the OEM does not factor in environmental changes since any given component could be placed into a wide range of operating environments. As oil or grease droplets can seep through bearings, conveyors, can-seamers and ovens, it is still highly recommended to use food-grade lubricants wherever there is the slightest chance of incidental contact with products during the manufacturing process.

Traditionally, very few OEMs have issued approvals for food-grade lubricants due to the performance deficiencies displayed by 100 percent mineral food-grade lubricants. There are some OEMs, such as major compressor manufacturers, who do not issue approvals for food-grade lubricants because they prefer to tie up with their own brand due to cost, logistics and availability reasons.

Engage lubricant suppliers or specialists who fully comprehend and provide the range of products that comply with industry standards set by NSF or Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Be sure to source suppliers who provide services in helping users to diagnose lubrication issues. Lubrication specialists like Tecsia Lubricants will also be able to help recommend the right lubricants based on load, speed, temperature and environment. They are knowledgeable in food-grade lubricants’ limitations as well as adequate performances.

When it comes to food-grade lubricants, choosing the right match for the application and selecting a reliable manufacturer or supplier are equally essential. This accounts for part of any hazards and preventive measures for various food processing industries.


Contributed by Mark Phang, Senior Technical Manager, Tecsia Lubricants.


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