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Food Lubricants 101: A Look at What Food Lubricants Are and How They Are Used

Oct 13th 2015 at 9:53 PM

What are food grade lubricants?

Think of a food processing factory. Those big machines need some lubrication to run efficiently, right? Now, you know that things have a way of going wrong in the production process and some of the lubricant used in the machines could get into contact with the food being processed. If it is the regular lubricant, it could contaminate the entire batch and if not caught, it could be potentially harmful to consumers.

If, on the other hand, the lubricant was food grade i.e. safe for human consumption, then even if a little bit got in the food, there would be no risks involved. So that is what food grade lubricants are. They are so safe that they are regarded indirect food additives.

It’s not just the food manufacturers that use these lubricants. Pharmaceutical companies are also enjoying the benefits of food grade lubricants while avoiding the previous inherent risks of other industrial lubricants.

Works just the same

In order for the food grade lubricants to be effective, they must perform all the functions of the other globally harmonized system lubricants:

•    Protect against friction, oxidation, corrosion and wear.
•    Dissipate heat
•    Transfer power
•    Sealing effects

In addition to these, they must be resistant to degradation by food products, chemicals, water and steam, be able to dissolve sugars, and be non-reactive to plastics and elastomers. Of greater importance is their compliance with food, health and safety regulations and international approvals which includes the oil analysis program lubricants must go through.

They come in categories

Food grade lubricants are categorized based on international standards for health and safety. They are five main categories which are:

i.    H1 – Lubricants with incidental food contact used as anti-rust/lubricant agents or release agents on seals and gaskets.
ii.    H2 – Lubricants with no food contact used on machine parts that will not have direct contact with the food, drink or drugs being produced.
iii.    3H – Release agents used on  grills, chopping boards, loaf pans, cutters and the like to keep the meat or poultry foods from sticking to the surface during processing.
iv.    H3 – Soluble oils that prevent rust on hooks and trolleys.
v.    HT1 – Heat transfer fluids with incidental contact used in the primary and secondary heating and cooling parts of the food processing.

The choice of which lubricant should be used on which machines depends on the function of the machine and what the chances are that it could come into contact with the food, drink or medical drugs being produced.

The development of food grade lubricants was a great step forward in ensuring the safety of consumers as well as facilitating better production rates and greater customer satisfaction for companies.


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