Like other businesses in the manufacturing industry, food production operations involve a multitude of machinery and equipment to ensure a constant supply of foodstuffs are available for the population to purchase. In every production plant or factory, this machinery will require lubricating oils to run effectively, but what is the best oil for food manufacturers?
Machine oils stop the surfaces of metal parts from grinding against one another and causing wear and tear. They also help cool these components, which can quickly become overheated when working at the pace demanded by competitive industrial markets. Oils do far more, however, as they also transfer power when necessary and seal parts with a protective film, blocking contaminants and harmlessly filtering them out of mechanical systems, improving their service life.
While an oil used by food manufacturers must tick all of these boxes, it must also be safe to use, even if it comes into contact with produce. As a result, the only lubrication suitable for food manufacturing is an oil that is classed as a food-grade lubricant.
What is an NSF rating?
Internationally recognised, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) rating is now accepted as the approved standard for food grade ratings, which apply to lubricants like oils and greases used in food manufacturing. There are three key registration categories outlined by the NSF: H1, H2 and H3.
Sometimes referred to as incidental contact, the H1 category is comprised of food-grade lubrication such as oils and built-for-purpose greases that are used to lubricate equipment engineered to clean, sanitise, can, bottle, blend, chill, fry, slice, peel or cut. Machinery lubricated by these products may also involve tanks, mixers, pump, chain drives, hoses and mass-production conveyor belts.
Known also by the name “Below the Line”, the H2 category covers non-food contact lubrication types. These solutions are not designed for use in an environment where contact with food is a possibility, but there is still a potential impact on health of human beings. H2 lubricants must still adhere to the NSF registration guidelines – in particular, section 5.1. This means that lubricants must contain no teratogens, mutagens, odorous materials, carcinogens or substances containing additional heavy metals.
The final category is H3. Like H1, these concern food-grade lubricants; however, these oils are commonly edible and can be used on equipment that must have contact with food produce. This may include carts, meat hooks and other tools and accessories used in food manufacturing.
The use of white mineral oil
White mineral oil was once accepted by the food manufacturing industry as the most optimum food-grade lubricant, but today, it has been superseded by cutting-edge synthetic options. These innovative oils formulated in laboratories, such as Fuchs Cassida Fluid GLE 220, are able to offer impressive extreme temperature ranges, improved anti-wear and antioxidant attributes.
While synthetic food grade oils are more costly, manufacturing firms find that substantial savings are made over time to compensate. For example, equipment using such oils typically benefits from increased lifespan for chains and bearings and reduced mechanical downtime.