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Food-grade or food-safe lubricant is the name given to any industrial lubricant that is considered safe for incidental contact with items that may be consumed by humans or animals, as long as it does not exceed a certain concentration.

Items that require food-grade lubricants for production include:

  • Food
  • Beverages
  • Medicines and Supplements
  • Cosmetics
  • Animal feed and pet food

Food grade lubricant is used during the production process of these items. It is considered safe for only incidental consumption at most. Incidental contact is typically inadvertent and may occur through dripping, contact, or spillage. In order to be considered incidental, lubricants may not exceed more than 10 parts per million after contact.

Interflon Food-grade Lubricants

Interflon Food Lube

Interflon Food Lube with MicPol® is an H1 lubricant, available in aerosol and bulk liquid formats. The aerosol is easy to use on the spot and can be attached to small, portable dispensers such as those made by Simalube by Simatec.

The bulk liquid is suitable for use with an automatic dispenser, which allow lubrication of chains without shutting down the assembly line.

Interflon Paste HT1200

Interflon Paste HT1200 with MicPol is an H1-rated, ceramic-based assembly paste and rethreading compound with a broad range of applications. It can withstand temperatures of up to 1,200° Celsius, or about 2,100° Fahrenheit, making it ideal for use in food production environments such as commercial bakeries. It protects against galling, fretting, and galvanic corrosion, withstands high pressure and acid media, and strongly resists water washout.

Read more about Paste HT1200 here.

Interflon Fin Grease

Interflon Fin Grease is a clear, H1-rated aerosol lubricant with MicPol® that has all the same properties as Interflon Fin Super, but expands into a grease upon application. It resists water, soap, and steam and prevents dirt, dust, and water ingress. It has a temperature range of -4° to +300° F (-20° to +150° C).

Interflon Food Grease LT2

Interflon Food Grease LT2 with MicPol® is an H1-rated grease for cold processes and outdoor exposure, especially in winter. It offers significant reduction in friction and wear, inhibits corrosion and rust, is extremely resistant to water washout, and is transparent upon drying in order to allow easy visual inspection of lubrication points.

Food Grease LT2 is so good at repelling water that we frequently demonstrate it by spreading it around the bottom of a dish or vessel, adding water, and then drinking it. LT2 is so insoluble that it can’t even be tasted. Don’t believe us? Check out this video!

Interflon Slide Wax

Interflon Slide Wax with MicPol® is an H2-rated dry slide wax in aerosol format. Engineered for smoothing the sliding surfaces of packaging and transport systems, woodworking machines, paper handling, cutting, binding, and printing equipment as well as conveyors and slides. May be used in areas where food, beverages, and medicines are being processed (NSF H2). Sets up a clean, highly durable dry lubrication film that virtually eliminates wear and protects against corrosion. Does not stain, is non-greasy, resists moisture and dirt. Won’t damage stainless steel and is safe to use with almost all rubbers and plastics.

Interflon Degreaser EM30+

Interflon Degreaser EM30+ is an all-purpose cleaning spray, rated NSF K1/K3. For use in food processing areas. Excellent for tough cleaning jobs: breaks down heavy greases, oils, grime, dirt, graphite and carbon residue. Removes tar, paint, silicone, glues, hot melt, resins, polymers, styrenes, gasket sealant, adhesives, waxes, bitumen, dyes, inks, paints, sugars, syrups, labels and graffiti too. Very effective cold degreaser on engines, chains, gearwheels, conveyors, bearings, slides and many other machine parts, as well as on hard stone, tiles, floors, walls etc.

Interflon Eco Degreaser

Interflon Eco Degreaser with F-Active technology is rated NSF A1, and is so environmentally friendly it doesn’t require any hazardous warning labels. Contains unique, active substances for quickly and effectively removing contamination, such as grease residue, used oil, hydrocarbons, graphite, ink, tar, polymers, polystyrene, glue, wax and bitumen.

NSF H1, H2, or H3: How to Choose?

The process of choosing a grade of food safety in a lubricant may seem complicated. Frequently, when uncertainty exists as to which classification is appropriate, manufacturers will opt to use an H1-rated lubricant in all scenarios to err on the side of safety. In the past, this would have been an impractical solution, but advances in lubricant technology mean that H1 lubricants now meet or exceed the performance of H2 and H3 lubricants.

Let’s take a moment to understand what these ratings mean and how they were developed.

Food-safe ratings are defined by NSF International, an internationally-recognized resource for the classification of food grade lubricants. It is an independent body that has created certification standards for a variety of industrial products used in food manufacturing. American facilities that wish to ensure compliance with US laws should check labels to ensure that all lubricants are NSF-classified. This classification system exists to assure consumers that lubricant, food and drug manufacturers are all united in ensuring that the items they consumer are safe.

NSF issues three levels of classifications for food-grade (also called “food-safe”) lubricants:

H1

This is typically what people mean when they say “food-grade lubricants”. Amounts in foodstuffs must not exceed 10 parts per million (0.001%). H1 lubricant formulations may only contain certain base stocks, additives and thickeners as specified by the FDA regulations given in 21 CFR 178.3750.

Additives in H1 must meet NSF additive (HX-1) requirements. They must also be tasteless, odorless, and colorless. All Interflon food-grade lubricants meet this qualification.

Labeling
The H1 classification also carries responsibilities with regard to labeling. Labels must be:

  • clear and not misleading
  • contain the correct instructions for use
  • must be traceable to the manufacturer
  • must bear the NSF Registration Mark, the H1 category code, and a unique product registration number.

When reading labels, look for statements like the following:
“Food Grade”
“Ingredients meet FDA Regulation 178.3570” or “21 CFR 178.3570”
“NSF H1 Registered” or “Registered with NSF as an H1”
“Meets USDA 1998 Guidelines”
“Suitable for Use in the Food Industry”

H2

These lubricants may only be used in situations where there is no possibility of contaminating food, beverages, or medicine. For example, the oil used in a forklift can be classed as H2. They must also contain no carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens, mineral acids or intentionally heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury or selenium.

H3

These lubricants are typically used to clean and prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and other such equipment. These must be composed of edible oils, like corn, cottonseed, soybean, or mineral oils.

When a product has been successfully registered as H1, registrants will receive a confirmation letter from the NSF which includes this paragraph:

“This product is acceptable as a lubricant with incidental food contact (H1) for use in and around food processing areas. Such compounds may be used on food processing equipment as a protective anti-rust film, as a release agent on gaskets or seals of tank closures, and as a lubricant for machine parts and equipment in locations in which there is a potential exposure of the lubricated part to food. The amount used should be the minimum required to accomplish the desired technical effect on the equipment. If used as an anti-rust film, the compound must be removed from the equipment surface by washing or wiping, as required to leave the surface effectively free of any substance which could be transferred to food being processed.”

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The body of law that governs all food safety-related matters is the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). This code states that plant managers must be diligent in maintaining records on lubricants used in manufacturing, and it also lays out regulations for the storage and handling of these lubricants. The CFR also dictates substances for incidental contact and the limitations for their use.

Food grade lubricants should always be stored in a separate area from non-food grade lubricants and waste oil.

They should be kept in their original container whenever possible. If they must be transferred to another container, for example for dispensing purposes, then that container should be clearly labeled and should not have been used to store non-food safe lubricants at any time.

Lubricant storage areas should always be kept neat and tidy. Lids should be replaced promptly after use. Labels should be visible and storage areas themselves should be clearly labeled to indicate that only H1-class lubricants may be stored there.

Lubricants that are registered with NSF International are reviewed against the requirements of 21 CFR Section 178.3570.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. The FSMA has given the Food and Drug Administration new authorities to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested and processed.

The FSMA gives the FDA mandatory recall authority, as well as many other new authorities, in the first major change to food safety legislation since 1938. It is similar to the Food Safety Enhancement Act, which passed the House in 2009.

The new FSMA rules require that NSF food grade lubricants be stored separately from other, non-food MRO chemicals. Plus, stepped up training is required for employees working in food production.

Additional Best Practices

Never apply more lubricant than needed. See manufacturer’s guidelines for information.

Always immediately wipe off excess to avoid contamination.

A well-planned and thoroughly-documented lubrication schedule must be implemented for all equipment. Interflon recommends the use of a predictive maintenance or pragmatic maintenance schedule, which is more efficient than a calendar-based schedule and therefore results in greater savings. For more information on predictive maintenance, see “What Is Predictive Maintenance?”.