Food grade lubricants are potentially indirect food additives. How can a grease or an oil become a food additive? Leaks, excessive lubrication, messy application during maintenance, etc. Today’s beverage and food-associated processing plants are running faster and harder than ever before. Lubrication safety audits, selecting and implementing premium quality food grade lubricants, along with the proper lubrication program, are proactive steps toward a safe, efficient, and hygienic processing facility all while increasing profitability. A lubrication safety audit lends itself to proper equipment lubrication, improved performance, and the opportunity for lubricant consolidation, thus lowering the cost of inventory and the misapplication of lubricant. Safety audits should be performed every three years. A plant survey should be conducted when changing lubricant vendors and every time new machinery is added to the production line. A survey also exposes handling and storage procedures and various environmental concerns, all of which can all lead to lubricant contamination.
Definitions of Food Grade Category Codes
The following are definitions of H1, H2, 3H, H3, and HT1 lubricants as provided by NSF International, the standard that has replaced the now-defunct USDA H1 rules, procedures, and systems for lubricants. Prior to Sept. 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, 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; and GRAS substances complying with 21 CFR Parts 182 (multi-purpose only) or 184.
HT1 – Heat transfer fluids with incidental contact: These products are used 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.