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Lubrication Failure: Horror Stories

Lubrication failures lead directly to production losses, so choosing the right kind of lubricant is an integral part of plant management. According to the Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM), “up to 65 percent of mechanical equipment failures can be attributed to some form of lubrication deficiency.” Sadly, some companies had to learn this the hard way.

Contamination Incidents

In 1998, Smithfield Foods recalled 490,000 pounds of smoked boneless hams due to contamination. The food was contaminated by non-food grade gear lube and was reported when customers started reporting a foul taste and a burning in the throat from eating the contaminated ham.

On June 16, 2000, Farmland Foods Inc. of Kansas City, Missouri issued a recall on 86,000 pounds of sliced turkey exposed to a nonfood-grade lubricant during processing caused consumer complaints of temporary intestinal discomfort from off-color, off-odor turkey.

In 2002, Arinco, a manufacturer of milk powder at Vidabaek, Denmark (owned by Arla Foods) recalled its infant formula and milk powder after the discovery of contamination by industrial oil and metal in the mixtures.

On September 1, 2000, Stoke-on-Trent City Council (United Kingdom) received complaints from a mother that a jar baby food called Heinz Cheesy Parsnip and Potato Bake “smelled of tar”. Investigators found the food was contaminated with toxic mineral oil lubricant during the manufacturing process.

On November 8, 2002, a consignment of soft drink “Big Thirst” was recalled because of lubricant contamination. The product had five flavors in 1.25-liter bottles, distributed through NQR Grocery Clearance Stores in Victoria, Australia. Food Standards Australia indicated that the lubricant might cause irritation if consumed.

While it’s true that sound maintenance and operational practices tend to lower the chances of product contamination, leaks and spills can still occur. Any plant using nonfood-grade lubricants is risking an expensive product recall that could damage the company’s brand and reputation.

Manufacturers should shift to high-quality food grade lubricants to avoid experiencing a horror story of their own. 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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