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Choosing the Right Food-Grade Lubricant

Deciding on the right lubricant to use for your product equipment involves some consideration. Should you go for mineral oil-based or synthetic? Food-grade or not?

In choosing the most suitable lubricant to use, consider the potential for food contact. Determine which machines have that potential and plan for the highest-grade lubricants, H-1.

Lubricants are grouped into three categories, depending upon their potential for food contact:

H-1 - Lubricants with incidental contact: These compounds may be used on machines and in areas where contact with food is only incidental. They can be lubricants for moving parts or used as a protective anti-rust film or as a release agent on gaskets or seals of tank closures.

H-2 - Lubricants with no contact: Whether serving as lubricant, release agent or anti-rust film, these compounds may be used only in closed systems or in locations where there is no possibility of the lubricant or lubricated part contacting a food product.

H-3 - Soluble oils: These products typically are applied to hooks, trolleys and similar equipment to clean, lubricate and prevent rust. But those portions of the equipment that contact edible products must be clean and free of the mixture before making contact with food.

"Historically, food processors only used USDA H-1, or now NSF H-1 lubricants, in areas where they absolutely had to. The reasons typically were H-1 lubricants did not have the performance properties [for] more demanding applications and the cost differential when compared to traditional industrial lubricants," according to Fuchs Lubritech, Harvey, Ill."In recent years, this reasoning has become less of an issue."

Less of an issue as the cost differential of traditional lubricants has been reduced due to rising crude oil costs (most H-1 lubes are mineral-oil based). Secondly, food safety has now become of main concern, even more than costs.

"Food safety and regulatory compliance continues to be top priorities for the food processing industry, and as a result we've seen strong demand for food grade lubricants, " says Colleen Flanagan, marketing portfolio manager for specialty fluids at Petro-Canada Lubricants.

"Increasingly processors have adopted policies that ensure the highest standards of food safety in plants. Many have adopted the HACCP system, which requires the use of H-1 food grade lubricants in equipment such as hydraulic systems, pumps, mixers, tanks chain drives and conveyor belts to eliminate the risk of incidental contamination by non-food grade lubricants."

With standards on health and safety rising, manufacturers should choose only top-quality lubricants.  The Industrial Lubricant Store’s food-grade lubricants are 100% OEM compatible and formulated specifically for each type of industrial equipment being used in the food services industry.  Composed of the highest quality synthesized hydrocarbon fluids available, these special blends offer extended life and protect against wear, rust, and corrosion.  Check out our product offerings at

About the Author
Randy Renick
Randy Renick has a Bachelor's degree from LSU. He is an STLE Certified Lubrication Specialist and has a 29 year work history in Industrial Lubrication. He is currently a Lubricant Consultant at The Industrial Lubricant Store.

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