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What are Food Grade Lubricants?

Food grade lubricants are potentially indirect food additives. A grease or oil can become a food additive through leaks, over lubrication, messy application during maintenance, etc. Today’s pharmaceutical, beverage and food-associated processing plants are running faster and harder than ever before. Selecting and implementing premium quality No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants along with the proper lubrication program ensures safe and efficient operations all while increasing profitability.

An oil or grease qualifies as an NSF H1 food grade lubricant when, in the event of a contamination, it is present in no more than 10 mg per kg of the foodstuff in question and must not cause any physiological hazard or affect the food’s odor and taste in any way. Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants are special blends of base fluids and additives approved by the US FDA and registered by NSF International in the H1, 3H and HT1 categories.    

The following definitions of H1, H2, 3H, H3 and HT1 lubricants are provided by NSF International, the standard which has replaced the now-defunct USDA H1 rules, procedures and systems for lubricants (Prior to September 30, 1998 approval and compliance of food grade lubricants was the responsibility of the USDA).

H1 – Lubricants with incidental food contact (so called Food Grade lubricants):

Preparations permitted for use as lubricants and anti-rust agents, or as release agents on gaskets or seals of tank closures, where there is possibility of incidental food contact must be formulated in compliance with CFR, Title 21, Section 178.3570 and other sections referenced therein. The amount used should be the minimum required to accomplish the required technical effect on the equipment so treated. When a product is used as an anti-rust film, it should be removed by washing or wiping before putting the equipment back into service.

H2 – Lubricants with no food contact:

These products are used on equipment and machine parts in locations where there is no possibility of the lubricant or lubricated part contacting edible products. There is not a specific list of substances that may be used as lubricants where there is no possibility of food contact. Most substances generally used for the purpose in industry would be acceptable. Substances that are categorically unacceptable for such use are listed among the substances in Part 5.1 of NSF guidelines. There may be other substances that are not acceptable because of unfavorable toxicology or other considerations. Therefore, each preparation will be evaluated on its own merit.

3H – Release Agents:

These products are used on grills, loaf pans, cutters, boning benches, chopping boards, or other hard surfaces in contact with meat and poultry food products to prevent food from adhering during processing. Products containing edible oils such as corn oil, cottonseed oil and soybean oil, mineral oil complying with 21 CFR, Part 172, Section 172.878, and other GRAS substances may be acceptable upon review by NSF. In addition, defoaming agents complying with 21 CFR Section 173.340 (a) (1) and (a) (2) may be acceptable.

H3 - Soluble oils:

These products are used to prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and similar equipment. Treated equipment which contacts edible products should be cleaned by washing or wiping before putting the equipment back into service. Products may be composed of any of the following:

  • Edible oils (corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil) complying with 21 CFR, Section 172.860;
  • Mineral oil complying with 21 CFR Section 172.878;
  • GRAS substances complying with 21 CFR Parts 182 (multi-purpose only) or 184.

HT1 - Heat Transfer Fluids with incidental contact:

These products are used as heat transfer fluids in primary and secondary heating and cooling systems in food processing facilities. Preparations permitted for use as heat transfer fluids, where there is possibility of incidental food contact must be formulated in compliance with CFR,Title 21, Section 178.3570 and other sections referenced therein; ingredients may also comply with CFR Title 21 part 172. The amount used should be the minimum required to accomplish the required technical effect on the equipment so treated.

Over 80 products in the Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade range comply with NSF International H1, the standard that replaced USDA systems for lubricants where incidental contact with food is likely. For a complete list of all Bel-Ray products registered by NSF in all classification categories, see the NSF website (http://www.nsf.org/USDA/Listings.asp?Company=N01725).  Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade products also comply with the technical qualifications published in the Federal Register, FDA 21CFR 178.3570, as well as with FDA standards for raw materials used in food grade products (such as lubricants) within the United States, including imports and exports. Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade products are manufactured from components that have been evaluated and approved by the US FDA and declared safe for use in food processing preparations. The maximum concentration of a lubricant allowed in food is 10 ppm (parts per million). In addition, Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade products are manufactured in accordance with ISO 9001 quality standards. Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade products are Kosher and Pareve approved, as well as Halal certified.

Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants are free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), including feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) from animal derived materials and contain neither nut products nor materials derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Many products for the food industry are referred to as food grade, but it is important to know that only NSF H1 registered lubricants are truly “food grade." Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants perform as well as non food grade lubricants and in many instances offer better performance than conventional lubricants.

All lubricants, including food grade lubricants, need to provide proper lubrication for metal-to-metal surface separation. Anti-wear performance, extreme pressure, high load carrying properties, oxidation stability, rust and corrosion inhibitors, good seal compatibility and the ability to perform in temperature extreme environments are paramount. They must withstand a broad range of contamination such as process water, steam, high-pressure water cleaning/ sanitation and acidic conditions. Other contaminants that food grade lubricants must withstand include chemicals, sugar and substances that are present in the manufacturing process.

Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants are biostatic and they do not provide an environment in which bacteria, yeasts or fungus can grow. Each Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade product is uniquely formulated with FDA approved anti-microbial agents. These anti-microbial agents effectively prevent the growth of bacteria and control microbial proliferation in all Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade products, thus making it difficult for microorganisms to attack. Wet environments are especially susceptible to the formation of bacteria, making this a critical factor to address, yet easily solved with the use of Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants.

Bel-Ray No-Tox Food Grade Lubricants are not biodegradable because biodegradation requires microorganisms and water. Water and bio-organisms (yeast) are often present in food processing. Therefore, the oil should never be allowed to degrade in use, or become a food for mold and bacteria growth in food factories.

Acceptable H1 approved lubricant base stocks can be either mineral or synthetic. Mineral oils used are either technical white mineral or USP-type white mineral oils. Synthetic lubricant base stocks are usually polyalphaolefins (PAO) or polyalkylene (PAG). These base stocks are primarily used in lubricants designed for temperature extremes. Dimethylpolysiloxane (silicones) with a viscosity greater than 300 centistokes is also permitted.

Acceptable H1 approved grease thickening agents are aluminum stearate, aluminum complex, organo clay, polyurea and calcium sulfonate complex.

Whether you are looking for food grade grease, food grade oil, or converting your H2 lubricants to NSF H1 lubricants, contact Bel-Ray Company, Inc. and take advantage of the extensive Bel-Ray No-Tox product line and technical expertise.