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Getting to Know the NSF White Book

As food-grade greases are used in various food-processing equipment, strict guidelines have been implemented to secure the safety of food, drink and drug products. In addition to these demanding properties, incidental food contact lubricants in the United States and other countries must comply with the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21, Section 178.3570 and other sections referenced therein. Section 178.3570 details a list of substances that can be used to prepare food-grade lubricants and the limitations on the concentration of each substance. Sections referenced in 178.3570 list ingredients that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in food, which corresponds to Sections 182 and 184. Lubricant formulations may contain synthetic oils, edible oils such as soybean, cottonseed and corn oil, or white mineral oil. If mineral oil is used, it must comply with Section 178.3620(a), 178.3620(b) or 172.878. These sections list the purity requirements for white mineral oil, including the color and ultraviolet (UV) absorbance limits.

These products have to undergo a comprehensive review and investigation from the NSF before certification is given. Upon successful completion of the NSF review, an NSF Registration Letter is issued and posted in the White Book on the NSF Web site at www.nsf.org/usda/psnclistings.asp. The NSF Registration process is complete when the registration number, category code, and NSF Registration Mark appear on the NSF registered product. The White Book is a site that allows manufacturers, regulators and end users to peruse the more than 4,000 NSF registered H1 lubricants from over 400 companies located in 31 countries.

According to the NSF, in order to obtain the seal of approval, food grade lubricants undergo a rigorous process. Manufacturing procedures vary by thickener type. Regardless, the oil is added to a reaction vessel. These oils may be synthetic oils, edible oils or white mineral oils. The base oil’s viscosity varies depending on the application using the grease. The thickener components are added, and in the case of a soap thickener such as a calcium 12-hydroxystearate, the 12-hydroxystearic acid is melted at around 180°F. At this point, calcium hydroxide is added with heating to around 220°F. Once the reaction is complete, the mass is heated to around 400°F to a full melt and then cooled to recrystalize the soap fibers. This material may then be pumped to a finishing kettle or left in the reaction vessel to finish. Additional oil is then added to cool the mass below 180°F, which allows the additives incorporating antiwear, corrosion prevention and oxidation resistance components to be mixed in. The grease may be passed through a colloid type mill, homogenizer or other finishing equipment.

After the lubricant undergoes the above procedure, it must then be properly tested. A sample is taken after the batch is finished processing. The samples are then processed through a quality control laboratory to measure the dropping point, unworked and worked penetration, and color/clarity. Once approved against quality standards, the grease may be packaged and retested against the same standards. Information can vary from one manufacturer to another; therefore testing each sample is important for satisfactory results.

The NSF White Book lists all food grade lubricants that pass all requirements. Only certified oils should be used to ensure the health and safety of products. The Industrial Lubricant Store’s food-grade lubricants are 100% OEM compatible and NSF certified. They are formulated specifically for each type of industrial equipment being used in the food services industry. Check out our product offerings at http://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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