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Why Is It Essential to Select the Right Food Grade Lubricant?

Author: Jilli Smith
by Jilli Smith
Posted: Jun 30, 2022

Using food-safe lubricants for machinery can lower contamination risk and shield operations and business reputation in the process. In Australia, there is no law governing food-grade lubricants, so it is a good practice to use lubricants registered under the benchmarks developed by NSF International (a US-based, non-government organisation). NSF’s (National Sanitation Foundation) three levels of food-grade lubricant registration are categorised into H1, H2 and H3.

  • H1 category is for lubricants that might come into incidental contact with food - like a conveyor belt.

  • The H2 category is for lubricants used in areas where there is no likelihood that lubricants will touch food.

  • H3 category is for edible oils used on grills to prevent rust on hooks and trolleys.

H1 Lubricants Category – For Incidental Food Contact

Products with H1 categorisation fulfil particular guidelines found within 21 CFR 178.3570. These are often referred to as "above the line" lubricants within the industry. The "line" relates to the level at which food is found on conveyor belts, drums or within the facility. Lubricants categorised as H1 can be used around or above the conveyor belt. They are meant for use in applications where there may be a likelihood of incidental food contact.

Food-grade oils are categorised into groups, such as gear oil, hydraulic oil, conveyor oil, speciality oil, compressor oil, and white and base oil.

Gear Oils

Gear oils are semi-synthetic and can be used for different gearbox applications. It offers a distinctive lubricity for bevel, helical, spur, and worm gears. They are ideal for long-drain and deposit-free operations.

Hydraulic Oil

Hydraulic oil is mineral-based and includes additives of rust to provide an anti-wear safeguard to industrial equipment. It offers superior performance than other quality food-grade lubricating fluids.

Conveyor Oil

The conveyor oil category is meant to provide lubrication in high-humidity environments.

Specialty Oil

Speciality oil can be used in diverse areas of lubrication involving industrial airline lubrication. They offer anti-wear protection for air motors and parts; used for machinery applications in the food and beverage industry or any other.

The remaining two oil categories: (1) compressor oil and (2) white & base oil, have numerous useful features and are ideal for use in specialised and general lubrication applications.

How to Select the Appropriate Food Grade Lubricant for the Application?

Picking a suitable food-grade lubricant for the application can pose a challenge. During the selection - Safety, Operational and End-Use requirements should be understood and considered.

When selecting the suitable food-grade lubricant to use in a food processing operation, different groups within an organisation, such as facility management and operations, must consider the following five crucial factors, which will help strike a balance between cost, and environmental impact, and safety.

1. Selecting the Right Food Grade Lubricant for the Application

It would be helpful to consult a lubrication engineer to select the best lubricant. They will consider all familiar variables, including application requirements, food-grade classification requirements, formulation restrictions, and operating conditions.

2. Curtailing Likely Risk

Using food-grade lubricants that are tested, certified, and registered to satisfy stringent performance, safety, and health standards can lessen the risk of contamination.

3. Decreasing the Likelihood of Contamination

Decreasing the likelihood of contamination depends on the choice of the base fluid and additives. In settings where high water contamination is highly probable, a lubricant with exceptional separation characteristics requires consideration.

4. Materials Compatibility

It is vital to cautiously consider lubricant compatibility with various material types within a food processing facility. Compressors, pumps, gearboxes, engines, and other parts in a mechanical system can be built of diverse metallic parts. Choosing a lubricant developed for particular requirements of metal or multiple metal types under specific operating conditions is vital. Different variables, including the movement of machine parts, operational temperature range, and metal type are decisive in knowing how the lubricant requires to perform within the system.

5. Factoring in Base Stock

Lubricant manufacturers have a limited selection of base oils to select when developing solutions for the food and beverage processing industry. The base stock is the core component of the fluid, and the use of synthetic oils can help the finished lubricant by:

  • Curtailing volatility and evaporation rates.
  • Extending oil drain intervals.
  • Enhancing thermal and corrosion stability - Drying or sterilising food process.
  • Enhancing viscosity-temperature attributes – For refrigerated or high-temperature areas, high viscosity index is required.
  • Curtailing energy consumption.
  • Decreasing operating temperatures particularly under fully-loaded conditions.
The Bottom Line

The suitable food-grade lubricant will add value to the food processing operation by increasing productivity and lowering the possibility of health and safety issues for the end-user product.

About the Author

A warm welcome to my profile. I am a big foodie & love to travel a lot. Always prefer to share my knowledge with others & gain informative ideas from them.

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Author: Jilli Smith

Jilli Smith

Member since: Dec 07, 2017
Published articles: 12

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