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Food-grade Lubricants Provide Safe Food Production Solution

During the last few years, we have seen an increasing trend among food and beverage manufacturing plants toward the use of “food grade” lubricants. Not only is there a growing priority within the industry regarding food safety in general, the federal government requires the use of safe lubricants for applications in which there could be incidental food contact by the lubricant. These requirements are set forth in Guidelines of Security Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21, §178.3570.

The type of machinery used in food production is much the same as that used elsewhere in manufacturing. Contamination accidents such as oil in compressed air releases, hydraulic hose failures and grease drips from chains cannot be completely avoided, even in food production facilities. Food-grade lubricants are designed to be safe even if such accidents occur. The accidental consumption of food-grade lubricants in quantities below the maximum U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-prescribed level of 10 parts per million (ppm) is considered harmless to the consumer.

The FDA also prohibited selling “adulterated food”, food contaminated with regular lubricant oils to ensure consumer safety. Together with the FDA, the NSF International registers food-grade lubricants and provides a list of approved H1 food-grade lubricants. Known as the “White Book”, the list was initially published by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) until the NSF assumed that responsibility. Lubricants registered with the NSF as H1 are blended with FDA accepted ingredients in ISO 21469 certified facilities to ensure safety.

Although the use of food grade lubricants is increasing, many food and beverage manufacturers in the U.S have yet to replace their regular lubricants, as food-grade lubricants are considered too expensive. While H1 registered lubricants are still slightly more expensive than conventional lubes, the price difference has lessened as more blenders produce food grade products. Food grade lubricants are blended with both mineral and synthetic base oils, but as more companies update their lubricant programs, they are also upgrading to synthetic food-grade lubricants.

Data demonstrate that in many applications within the food and beverage industry, synthetic lubricants actually reduce the cost of operation by extending drain intervals, decreasing downtime, increasing productivity, and extending the life of expensive processing equipment. Synthetics can be particularly effective in the extreme hot or cold applications often associated with food manufacturing. A well-known US produce processor recently switched to synthetic food grades and was able to reduce downtime and decrease total expenditures. The cost of converting lubricants was recouped in approximately one year, yielding a great return on investment.

To further ensure food safety, plant maintenance and quality managers were also advised to pinpoint areas of potential lubricant contamination. Some lubricant suppliers offer lubrication contamination control point surveys (LCCP) which could then be incorporated in the plant’s food safety plan. Based on the hard analysis critical control point (HACCP) principles, the LCCP survey could determine plant risks such as contamination and assist in their reduction and management.

Recognizing the need for safe food production, the Industrial Lubricant Store (ILS) offers a complete line of mineral and synthetic H1 food grade lubricants designed to provide superior performance at cost-effective prices. Learn more about ILS’ extensive line of branded, high-quality food-grade lubricants today at www.theindustriallubricantstore.com/food-grade-lubricants.

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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