Since 1998, when the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) took over the H1 lubricant standard from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), concerns about food safety have only increased, and taking a look inside the lubricant cabinet of a food, beverage or pharmaceutical plant it's easy to see why. Upon close inspection, you'll see the cabinet isn't holding only food-grade (NSF H1) lubricants, but may also contain cleaners, glue removers and penetrating sprays, which often turn out to be just industrial chemicals and/or degreasers, and when non-food-grade lubricants clutter up a storage cabinet there's always the chance that someone reaches for the wrong lubricant at the wrong time.
To address these concerns, in 2000, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) formed and defined food safety requirements along the entire food supply chain, then in 2011 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented the Food Safety Modernization Act, which shifted the focus from responding to food contamination problems to preventing them. Today, this is being addressed through the ISO 21469 standard, which creates new benchmarks for lubricant manufacturers that ultimately benefits end-users by taking a holistic "farm to fork" approach to the manufacturing of food grade lubricants.
This voluntary certification implemented by lubricant manufacturers who care to do so, takes into account the lubricant and its ingredients, as well as the manufacturing process, handling, packaging and storage facilities where the lubricant is made. Klüber Lubrication has the most NSF ISO 21469 certified facilities in the industry and took a number of steps to meet the standard – including a hygiene strategy that takes into account any chemical risks (such as cleansing agents and non-approved raw materials), physical risks (including adulteration by foreign substances picked up from machinery) and biological risks (presence of pathogens, toxins, etc.) associated with the intended use of the lubricant. As well as this, Klüber Lubrication promotes food safety as a member of the European Hygienic Equipment Design Group – the EHEDG.
As a consortium of experts from the machine and component building industries, the EHEDG supports hygienic design in all areas of food production. Lubricants are considered machine components, which motivated an expert group of the EHEDG to create a Guideline - Document 23 - specifically for lubricants. Similar to ISO 21469, this EHEDG Guideline describes binding hygiene measures to be used for the manufacture of H1 lubricants. It also contains instructions for the changeover of production machinery or its components to H1 lubricants.
Whilst it is true that not all food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies are required to use H1 lubricants the EHEDG lubricants subgroup exclusively recommends the use of H1 lubricants in food production. To quote the EHEDG, "There are many cases where operators knowingly or unknowingly use H2 lubricants for production sites in which H1 lubricants are required – either for economic reasons or by simply misunderstanding the use of H1 in comparison to H2". Despite the classes' similarity, and whilst it may seem acceptable to use H2 lubricants, the EHEDG opposes this as in some cases they may even turn out to be toxic. The ISO 21469 standard also provides a detailed lubricant definition and requires the use of H1 lubricants for incidental contact not only with food products but also cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, tobacco and animal feed.
Of course food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers don't deliberately allow contamination, it's definitely not in their interest to do so, but many food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies still allow industrial and incorrect lubricants to be used on their processing machinery. By performing a careful inventory and converting to an all NSF H1 registered lubricant facility, Maintenance Managers can eliminate any chance of potential contamination with hazardous substances leading to product recall and whilst there used to be a misconception that a food-grade lubricant could compromise performance, technical advances have proven that H1 lubricants can deliver the same if not better performance than conventional industrial gear oils and can be used safely on machinery components such as pumps, mixers, gearboxes, chain drives and conveyor belts. Even at higher temperatures or loads and in wash-down environments, the appropriate NSF H1 lubricant will still reduce friction and wear, protect against corrosion, dissipate heat and have a sealing effect.
Klüber Lubrication advocates that all food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers use only H1 lubricants and complement them with a service package consisting of comprehensive training on lubricants and lubrication management including the creation of lubrication charts, optimising lubricants and many more activities supporting safe lubrication.
It's a win-win formula that not only saves money when it comes to contamination clean-up, but it also pays dividends by driving food safety and quality forward in the plant environment for years to come.