What is a Food Grade Lubricant and why and where can I use it?

A Food grade lubricant performs in the same way as any other lubricant. It provides protection against wear, friction, corrosion and oxidation, dissipates heat and transfer power. It’s compatible with rubber and other sealing materials, as well as provide a sealing effect in some cases.

Lubricants in the food and drink industry can be subjected to intense environmental contaminants. For example a corn-milling environment generates significant dust. Although not as hard as silica-based dust, it still presents a problem for filtration. A meat plant requires stringent steam cleaning at all times, so the risk of water contamination is high. Some plants experience as much as 15% by volume of water in their gear oils.

Another aspect of lubrication contamination that poses a risk to food-grade lubricants is the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. While these can be a risk in industrial environments, the opportunity for contamination in the food-production environment is even greater.

Over the last few decades there have been considerable advancements in process controls, manufacturing procedures and packaging automation to ensure foods and product coming into contact with humans and animals are free from lubricant contamination. To meet and exceed these high levels of manufacturing, automation and safety, JAX have set the standard in the food grade lubricant industry and have the largest range of NSF rated lubricants on the market. Industrial Lubricants (UK) LTD is the UK distributor for JAX lubricants.

Lubrication Improvements

When you consider the amount of money invested and high levels of cleanliness and efficiency you would think every part of the process would be optimized. Sadly this is not the case in a lot of instances. Industrial Lubricants offer a number of high end, problem solving products that limit down time, reduce maintenance intervals and increase the life of bearings and chains considerably. Some include Micronox™ which reduces the spread of bacteria should bacteria come in contact with it

Due to the risk of contamination from all manner of sources or at least the inevitable leakage during manufacturing, JAX food lubricants are crucial in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Plant surveys and inspections from clients are becoming more common, and these ensure plants are adhering to good safety records, legislation and standards set by governing bodies, competitors and clients ie: supermarkets etc. We find clients requesting JAX lubricants be used plant wide as they ensure reliability to the plant and most importantly, peace of mind should contact be made entire batches are not scraped due to contamination or the possibility of litigation.

The Evolution of Food Grade Lubricants

Food, beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetic plants tend to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure profitability. Shut downs, break downs and re-builds need to be kept to a minimum and this is where the correct lubricant in the correct place can save quite literally £100,000’s. For example a client using JAX high temperature chain oil on an oven chain can extend the life of their chain by 3 times meaning a £400,000 chain need only be purchased once every 6 years and not every 2. In addition most of the high end food lubricants and greases are designed to withstand high pressure, hot and cold water washout and remain in contact with the item intended to be lubricated.

JAX food grade lubricants are colourless, odorless and when graded H1 are harmless should small amounts be found in the process of packaging/manufacture. JAX provide a range of mineral based, semi synthetic and synthetic lubricants to suit all requirements and budgets.

In the past, white mineral oil was considered the main form on food grade lubricant, this is not the case as many benefits such as anti oxidants, anti wear characteristics and very high/low temperature ranges are now achievable using the latest synthetic lubricants. Although they are more expensive, the cost savings that can be made by the reduced down time, and increased life of bearings & chains easily out weigh this. Each product has it’s merits and Industrial Lubricants’ surveys will help you to identify where you need to use the mineral, semi synthetic or synthetic lubricant to get the most productivity to suit your budget. (ie: a chain being exposed to temperatures of 280 degrees Celsius ought to use a synthetic lube where as a gearbox under moderate load in 30-50 degree temperatures would work well with a mineral or semi synthetic lubricant. As always, it is crucial to ensure the correct viscosity is applied).

The NSF rating is globally recognized as the standard in food grade ratings:

NSF International registration categories are:

  • H1 – Food-grade Lubricants (AKA: Incidental Contact): This includes lubricants, hydraulic oils, and greases used in equipment for cleaning, sanitizing, canning, bottling, blending, chilling, frying, cutting, slicing, and peeling, along with pumps, mixers, tanks, hoses, chain drives, and conveyor belts.
  • H2 – Non-food Contact Lubricants (AKA: Below The Line): These products are not intended for use where there is a possibility of food contact, but may still impact human health. They are not required to meet 21 CFR requirements, however, they do have to conform to Section 5.1 of the NSF Registration Guidelines—no carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens, mineral acids, odorous substances, and no intentionally added heavy metals.
  • 3H – Food-grade Lubricants: These are typically edible oils that are used to prevent rust on hooks, carts and similar equipment that come in contact with food.
    Please click here for a quick reference guide to NSF categories and applications they are used in.

JAX’s continual improvements and research and development means clients and consumers can be assured that the food and drugs industries are maintaining strict standards with regard to our health and safety. That’s why a great many of them are using JAX lubricants.