There are several categories of lubricants used in the food industry. In this overview there is two classifications that stand out as preferred lubricants for the food industry.This is H-1 and 3-H classified products.
H1 lubricants - Lubricants that could have incidental food contact are sometimes referred to as "above production line" lubricants. These may be used on food-processing equipment as a hydraulic fluid, gear oil, or grease to serve as a lubricant, antirust film, release agent on gaskets or seals of tank closures. Mainly used as a lubricant for machine parts and equipment in locations where the lubricated part is potentially exposed to food. Maximum allowance of lubricant getting transferred from lubrication point to food is 10 PPM.
The amount used should be the smallest needed to accomplish the desired technical effect on the equipment. Overfilled or over greased lubricant should be removed before production start.
HX1 and HTX1 are sub categories, used for lubricant additives and other ingredients. For example, an antioxidant that is approved at 1% additive level in an incidental contact lubricant would receive an HX1 certification. This allows formulators to easily determine which additives they can use to maintain their certification.
H2 lubricants - These are lubricants with no possibility of contacting food. These compounds may be used as a lubricant, release agent or antirust film on equipment and machine parts. Alternatively used in closed systems in locations where there is no possibility of the lubricant or lubricated part contacting edible products.
H3 soluble oils - These products may be applied to bearings, chains, hooks, grinders and similar equipment to clean and prevent rust. The portions of the equipment that contact edible products must be clean and free of the oil before reuse.
HT1 - These products are used in primary and secondary heating and cooling systems in food processing facilities. Products permitted for use as heat transfer fluids when there is possibility of incidental food contact.
3H - These products are used on cutters, boning benches, chopping boards or other hard surfaces in contact with meat and poultry food products to prevent food from adhering during processing. Maximum allowance of lubricant getting transferred from lubrication point to food is not limited to10 PPM. Lately product with 3H approval serving as a lubricant is available in the marked.
Historically, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved incidental food-contact lubricants used in meat and poultry facilities. The FDA approvals became industry-accepted and carried over to other food-industry segments. The agency evaluated product formulations and reviewed labels but seldom conducted testing.
The USDA authorization program came to a halt in February 1998. Since 1999, NSF International has been satisfying the risk management needs of food product manufacturers, processors and regulators. NSF manages a registration process for nonfood compounds, including lubricants, used in and around food processing. It continues to rely on the FDA guidelines mentioned previously.
Although not required, NSF registration is becoming an industry standard globally. An ISO standard (ISO 21469) is also being developed for lubricants. There is debate about the value of imposing another standard that appears to only add cost. Currently NSF seem to include the ISO standard, and labeling more lubricant is approved according to both standards.
In addition to these guidelines, food plants often want to manufacture food that addresses the needs of specific segments of the population, including kosher and halal foods. Typically, the lubricant used to produce these products need be kosher or halal certified.
While the guidelines may seem daunting, it is in the best interest of food companies and lubricant suppliers to follow good manufacturing practice protocols while introducing foodgrade lubricants.
EHEDG is the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group. Their mission statement is “EHEDG enables safe food production by providing guidance as an authority on hygienic engineering and design for food manufactured in or imported into Europe”. EHEDG produces guidance documents that cover various aspects of food safety. Lubricants are covered in Guideline 23 “Production and use of food grade lubricants, Part 1 and 2 (2009)”. Guideline 23 embraces the HACCP principles and confirms their insistence on H1 Category lubricants: “In all cases comprising a contamination risk, H1 registered lubricants should be used.
Aquatiq® provides complete food safety solutions and expertise to the global food industry, offering a holistic approach that includes consultation, equipment and hygiene systems. Aquatiq offers food safety courses, certifications, audits as well as specialized chemistry for food processing and mechanical industries. Aquatiq does what it takes to ensure the production and distribution of safe food for companies around the world.