we consider an industrial lubricant to be food-grade if it does not contaminate or cause any harm to the food when it comes into contact with it. Food grade lubricants set different attributes and standards for lubricants to consider them.
These specific types of lubricants are usually used for production in specific industries, such as:
- Food and beverages
- Medicines and health supplements
- Pet food and animal feed.
However, everything is restricted to incidental contact or consumption. This means that its contacts should be either due to spillage or dripping and that, too, it should not exceed a specific limit, usually ten parts per million.
Code Of Federal Regulations for Food Grade Lubricants
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is an authorised body to govern how plant managers maintain, handle, and use lubricants used for manufacturing food and pharmaceutical products.
This governing body has set specific codes to determine the level of diligence among the plant managers. Whether it involves the food grade lubricant or food grade oil, these regulations apply to all.
In addition to that, the CFR also determines the limits and incidental contact of substances.
The set codes, according to CFR, includes the following:
- Food grade lubricants, including hydraulic oil, must be stored separately in a dedicated area and must not be mixed with non-food-grade substances or waste oil.
- The lubricants must be stored in the original container, and if it is needed to transfer to a separate container, it should be labelled clearly. The containers should be fresh and not used for storing any other non-food lubricants at any time.
- The storage area should be neat and clean, and visibly labelled.
- Shut the lids tightly and promptly after use.
There are different categories of food grade lubricants. Usually, experts classify the formulation based on the ingredients used. The categories are:
- H1 lubricants are the lubricants referred to as such when they come into incidental contact with food, drinks, or pharmaceutical products in a food-processing setting.
- H2 lubricants – The lubricants used on the machinery and its components that have no scope of contact with the food product are called H2 lubricants.
- H3 lubricants – Often referred to as ‘edible oils,’ these specific types of lubricants are used in the machinery to protect it from the inside. There is no harm if they come into direct contact with the food products.
Traits of a Food Grade Lubricant
You can choose between synthetic or non-synthetic food-grade lubricants, but there are a few specific factors that make them the best. These are:
- Higher temperature tolerance
- The viscosity of the base oil
- Anti-wear abilities
- Corrosion inhibitors
- Extreme pressure endurance
- Higher oxidation stability
- Free from arsenic, antimony, lead, cadmium, selenium, mercury, or other heavy metals
- Free from mineral acids, mutagens, carcinogens, and teratogens
- Use only approved thickeners and additives, especially for grease
- Friction control
- Deposit control
- Good pumpability
- Higher hydrolytic stability
- Higher degradation resistance
Food grade lubricants must contain the permitted base oils. Depending on the base oil content, the lubricant is classified as H1 or H2.
According to the set guidelines, the base oil requirement for H1 is more restrictive in comparison to that of the H2 lubricants. This is because, both synthetic and mineral-based, the H1 lubricants may come in direct contact with the food product processed.
Additives and Thickeners
Food-safe lubricants must also use the permitted additives and thickeners if they require to enhance their performance in a specific working environment.
Some of the permitted additives and thickening agents for use in the food grade lubricants are:
- Aluminium complex
- Aluminium stearate
Out of all these, using the Aluminium complex is more extensive as a thickening agent for H1 grease. This is because these additives help the food grade grease to endure high temperatures. Moreover, it also enhances the water resistivity of the grease. Both these attributes are very important for food processing plants for their diverse applications.
These lubricants can be certified or registered even with a third party, such as NSF, that guarantees the product meets the set regulatory requirements and guidelines for food grade.
The use of food-grade lubricants in the food and beverage processing units helps them to meet their production targets. It plays a significant role in ensuring food safety for consumption by humans, pets, and other animals.
It is, therefore, essential for every food processing unit to comply with these set rules and guidelines and use only permitted lubricants and grease in their machinery.
In the food industry, despite the best practices followed, lubricant leaks can happen. Therefore, it is paramount to use the correct lubricants so they do not contaminate the food, even if there is a leak.
Knowing the attributes and standards that make a lubricant a food-grade lubricant and using it easily meet this significant challenge.