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The Importance Of Food-Grade Lubricants

Following recent outbreaks of listeria and salmonella in South Africa, food safety has come under the spotlight, particularly within food manufacturing environments. This article discusses the role of machinery lubricants in achieving optimal safety.

Callum Ford, National Marketing Manager at Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa, explains that the food-bev industry requires specialised lubrication solutions that consider not only the complexity of the equipment, but also specific operating environment challenges, such as non-toxicity.

“Food-grade lubricants have to meet the same technical requirements as any other lubricant – and some,” he says.

“Most food processing machinery requires lubrication for bearings, gears, slides or chains. Lubrication solutions in this environment must protect against wear, friction, corrosion and oxidation. They have to withstand moisture, hot and cold conditions, shock loading or impact, and constant use of equipment. They also need to comply with non-toxicity regulations.

“Plus, they have to resist degradation from any chemicals in the environment, from the pH of the food components themselves, to chemicals used in sanitation and cleaning processes. They also can’t allow for any microorganism growth.”

This lengthy list of requirements is why international standards exist to govern these products, and why LE focuses on customer education and training as backup to its extensive range of food-grade lubricants.

“As the licensed distributor of LE Incorporated products for Southern Africa, all our food-grade products are certified by the USDA or National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International,” Ford says.

Food-grade lubricants are classed into three categories: H1, H2 and H3.

H1 lubricants are food-grade lubricants that may be used in food-processing environments where there is the possibility of incidental food contact.

H2 lubricants are used on equipment and machine parts in locations where there is no possibility of contact, although they must meet certain requirements pertaining to toxicology and other considerations.

For example, they may not contain carcinogens or heavy metals such as lead or mercury, among other things.

H3 lubricants are food-grade lubricants typically used to prevent rust on equipment and are made from edible oils, such as corn, soybean or cottonseed oils.

“Our LE Quinplex additive makes many LE lubricants an easy and appropriate choice for food applications, while our USDA and NSF certified greases are well suited for applications in sealing and waterproofing machinery.” says Ford.

“All LE H1 lubricants – except for H1 Machine Oil – are also certified Halaal by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, as well as Kosher Pareve by the Orthodox Union.”

Ford emphasises that quality food-grade oils and greases also play a key part in reducing maintenance and operating costs for food and beverage facilities.

“At Lubrication Engineers, our aim is to provide customers with the best lubrication solution for their particular requirements, and to save them money in the long-run, by providing products that will offer superior performance.”