What are Food Grade Lubricants?
Food safety should be the #1 priority for food & beverage manufacturers. It is essential that manufacturers maintain similar cleanliness and hygiene standards as present in hospitals. Even if such standards are maintained, there is a high probability that food contamination may occur. This may be due to several reasons; one of them is lubricant contamination.
Food-grade lubricants are lubricants acceptable for use in meat, poultry, beverage and other food processing equipment, applications and plants. They perform technically the same functions as any other lubricant – to protect machinery from friction, corrosion, wear & oxidation. In addition, certain applications within the food and beverage Industry require these lubricants to resist degradation from chemicals, steam, food products as well as microbial contamination.
Lubricants used in food production are listed by NSF International in category ‘H’ (H1, H2 & H3) – non-food compounds. Release agents are part of the group proprietary compounds and are listed in category ‘3’(3H) – food processing substances.
H1 lubricants are food-grade lubricants that are suitable for incidental contact with foods or beverages in the production line up to 10 parts per million. They are considered as the “true” food grade or food safe lubricants. They are used to lubricate machinery such as gearboxes, hydraulic systems, corrugators, conveyor belts, pumps, etc. as well as in applications such as blending, cooking, cutting, etc. This is done in order to reduce friction between parts and increase corrosion protection due to contact with food ingredients.
These lubricants are strictly in compliance with FDA Regulations – (21 CFR 178.3750). Registration for lubricants according to H1 are issued by the International institution NSF. H1 products are additionally Halal and Kosher tested in order to meet religious guidelines. Institutes such as NSF examine these products with regard to FDA requirements or religious guidelines.
3H lubricants are direct contact release agents that are applied to moulds, grills, or other equipment in order to prevent food from sticking to the machinery during processing. These products must comply with 21 CFR, Section 172.878 as well as with NSF’s regulations. These lubricants have a high operating temperature range when compared to vegetable oils, which many manufacturers tend to use because it provides a similar effect as a release agent. But these oils are not approved and may easily turn rancid and may even spoil the machinery leading to high overhead costs.
3H lubricants are made with ingredients that are safe for human consumption and are designed to achieve the desired effect using minimal quantities. For this reason, 3H lubricants may also be used as H1 lubricants as they tend to serve dual purpose. Most of Foodsafe Lube’s 3H products can also be found in the list of its H1 products. With that said, 3H products must still adhere to the strict 10 ppm tolerance as with H1 products.