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Food Contamination Threats And Food-Grade Lubricants

Lubricant contamination has always been a concern in the food and beverage processing industry. A major accident could cause a company to make a massive recall that could be devastating to its brand r...


Lubricant contamination has always been a concern in the food and beverage processing industry. A major accident could cause a company to make a massive recall that could be devastating to its brand reputation. There are many things to think about when running a food manufacturing or processing business, and concern over food contamination from lubricants should be one of them.

It is essential for food and beverage companies to use lubricants that are not only in compliance with or exceed government standards, but that also protect brand equity. A quality food-grade lubricant will add to profitability by reducing maintenance costs and lubricant consumption.

For non food-grade lubricants, the US FDA allows zero amounts of lubricant to come into contact with food. Any food that comes accidentally in contact with lubricants must be discarded. If the plant uses food-grade (H-1) lubricants, they have to be nontoxic, odourless and tasteless. The FDA limits lubrication contamination to 10 parts per million (10 ppm). For these lubricants, NSF International maintains the class H-1 list as lubricants compliant with CFR 178.3570.

Most major food producing companies have begun using the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system for achieving food safety standards and have recognized the importance of a lubrication survey to ensure H-1 lubricants are used wherever possible.

The HACCP program focuses on preventing hazards that may result in an unsafe food supply by applying science-based controls such as analyzing potential hazards, identifying critical control points, incorporating preventive measures, taking corrective actions and good recordkeeping.

Implementing a high-quality NSF H-1 lubricant is a proactive step companies can take toward meeting HACCP guidelines, which require assessment at each contact point of the lubricant and critical equipment used for food processing as a means to prevent contamination and protect quality.

Using an H-1 food-grade lubricant in food processing machines safely supports brand quality without affecting productivity. Once in place, the right high-quality lubricant can bring additional benefits, including maximized return on investment (ROI), increased uptime and cost savings.

A plant’s operating conditions and environment will generally determine whether to choose a high-performance synthetic food-grade lubricant over a mineral-based lubricant product. Today’s trend is toward higher-performance synthetic lubricant products, which are playing a key role in maximizing equipment life, decreasing maintenance expenditures and reducing the need for frequent lubrication of bearings and gear components.

Food manufacturers can choose from a range of mineral and synthetic oils and greases, but quality differences between them are significant.

General industrial fluids and greases historically have been used in food and beverage manufacturing, but the potential for contact with consumable goods make them less than ideal for these applications.

Common food-grade mineral oil based products have helped companies meet USDA and NSF H-1 requirements, but they often fall short of the lubrication performance requirements of modern food processing equipment.

Synthetic lubricants can be specifically designed for high performance, whether for the extreme low temperatures of freezers or for the high temperatures of ovens. The increased oxidation and thermal stability of a synthetic lubricant compared to a mineral or white-oil based product make them more effective.

Synthetics need to be changed less often, reducing the potential of spills and the disruption of production lines. Lubricated systems under high stress benefit from improved fluid stability, viscosimetric and film formation properties, which minimize the rate of component wear, leading to improved component longevity.

However, the selection of the most competent food-grade lubricant provider is just as important as selecting the correct lubricant. It is essential to choose a lubricant supplier with a full range of products and services who also understands the customer’s business needs and maintenance obstacles.

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This article was prepared by Dow Corning. For more information, visit dowcorning.com.

Reader Service Card No. 425

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A quality food-grade lubricant will add to profitability by reducing maintenance costs and lubricant consumption.