Food Grade Lubricants Explained – Industrial Lubrication


Lubrication in Food Industry is a challenge for the food industry.

Large-scale food processing requires pumps, mixers, tanks, pipes, lines, chain drives, and belt conveyors. Machines used in food processing companies face the same lubrication challenges as companies in other industries. Lubricants must provide the same protection and therefore require good pump ability and good oxidation, hydraulic and thermal stability. In addition, certain applications in the food and pharmaceutical industries require lubricants that retain their performance when they come into contact with food products, certain process chemicals, water, or bacteria.

Strict requirements for lubricants for use in the food industry

Using lubricants in the food industry may be used in equipment, applications, and plants for processing meat, poultry, and other food products. The types of lubricants are divided into categories according to the likelihood of coming into contact with food. These categories are named H1, H2, and H3 around the world. The approval and registration of a new lubricant in one of these categories depending on the ingredients that go into its composition. Although lubricants are not expected to contaminate raw materials or the finished product, the consequences of such contamination are never as severe as in the food industry. In this sector, the requirements, protocols, and performance expectations are more stringent than typical industrial lubricants. This article explains the basic differences between lubricants of categories H1, H2, and H3 and their requirements, composition, and the best way to choose them. This choice is important for both food safety and machine reliability.

Here is a description of the three categories:

Category H1 lubricants are food-grade and are used in environments where the possibility of accidental contact with food exists. They can only consist of base oils, additives, and approved thickening agents, mentioned in a universal protocol.
Lubricants of category H2 are used on equipment and machine components in places where the possibility of contact between the lubricant or the lubricated surface and food is zero. As there is no risk of contact with food, the composition of these lubricants is not subject to a list of acceptable ingredients. However, heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium, antimony, mercury, or lead should not be present in them. Their ingredients must also be free from carcinogenic substances such as mutagens, teratogens, or mineral acids.

Lubricants of the H3 category, also called soluble or edible oils, are used for cleaning and preventing the appearance of rust on hooks, carts, and similar equipment.

Base oils authorized for lubricants

The list of authorized base oils varies depending on whether the lubricant belongs to category H1 or H2. The guidelines for the ingredients of H2 lubricants are less strict and therefore allow a greater variety of base oils. Many products used in industrial (non-food) installations are also used in food factories for H2 applications. Lubricants in the H1 category are much more limited because they are designed to allow accidental exposure to processed foods. H1 lubricants can be mineral and synthetic.

The petroleum-based lubricants used in H1 lubricants intended for the food industry are technical white mineral oils or USP-type white mineral oils. They are very refined, do not stain, and are colorless, tasteless, and odorless.
Synthetic H1 lubricants are often poly-alpha-olefins (PAOs). PAOs have much better oxidative stability and greater resistance to high operating temperatures compared to white mineral oils. Other synthetic base oils authorized in category H1 are polyalkylene glycols (PAG). These lubricants are used more and more often at high temperatures. Dimethylpolysiloxanes (silicones), which have a high viscosity, are also permitted in this category. Silicones exhibit even higher thermal and oxidative stability than PAO and PAG base oils.

Authorized base products, additives, and thickening agents:

Often base oils cannot meet the stringent demands placed on the working environment in the food industry. Therefore, additives are added to improve their performance characteristics. For example, antioxidants, corrosion inhibitors, additives with anti-wear and extreme pressure characteristics, and concentrations are prescribed by food agencies.
Fats are oils to which thickening agents have been added. Among the authorized thickening agents are aluminum stearate, aluminum complex, organo-clay, and polyurea. The aluminum complex is one of the most commonly used H1 grease thickeners. In addition, thickening agents are resistant to high temperatures and water. These are important properties for food processing applications.

Which food-grade lubricants are suitable for each machine?

Choosing between a category H1 and H2 lubricant can be difficult. For example, a lubricant used for a handling system passing over a supply line must be a category H1 oil. On the other hand, for a handling system passing below a supply line, the oil may be of category H2.
Since the additives in lubricants of the H1 category are much more limited and only mineral oil was used as base oil, the H1 category lubricants offer less protection in some cases and have a longer life. Shorter. Now that synthetic substances are used, some lubricants of the H1 category perform better than non-food lubricants. This is essential to allow consolidation and prevent accidental cross-contamination between H1 and H2 oils or food contamination with H2 oils. The use of H1 lubricants intended for the food industry does not exclude the correct maintenance of all machine components.

You can also read below articles for more information.

What is Tribology, Tribosystem & Lubrication

Basics of Industrial Lubricants.

Lubricating Oils Vs Lubricating Greases | What to Choose & Why?

Author Bio

Name- Sumit Agarwal

Bio- Sumit is a director of marketing in MLA Group. MLA Group is the largest manufacturers of Aluminium/Calcium Silicates in India having complete vertical integration and unique product properties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here