The challenges of the Food & Beverage Industry

 1st Feb 2013

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The food processing industry faces a long list of exclusive challenges to lubricant formulation engineers, lubricant marketers, plant lubrication engineers and equipment designers. While it is a must for lubricants to never be allowed to contaminate raw materials or finished products, the consequences of a lubricant-contaminated product can be disastrous for any food processing business.  This, of course requires the need for lubricants used in this industry to have the strictest standards and requirements, protocols and performance and expectations that go well beyond typical industrial lubricants. While identifying the differences between H1, H2 and H3 lubricants, this article will explain why it is so important to use the correct products in any application that is used in a food processing plant. Proper lubrication and strict approvals of NSF H1 products is critical to food safety and machine reliability.

Costly Consequences

Food-grade lubricants are lubricants acceptable for use in meat, poultry and other food processing equipment, applications and plants. There are many different types of food-grade applications and they are split into categories based on whether or not they are likely to come in contact food. The current food grade categories are measured and monitored by the USDA, these sections are called H1, H2 and H3. Depending on what ingredients are formulated into the products, the approval and registration of a new lubricant will then be categorised into the three designations below:

H1 lubricants are food-grade lubricants used in food processing environments where there is some possibility of incidental food contact. Lubricant formulations may only be composed of one or more approved basestocks, additives and thickeners (if grease) listed in 21 CFR 178.3750.

H2 lubricants are lubricants used on equipment and machine parts in locations where there is a 100% certainty that the lubricant or lubricated surface contacts food. Because there is no risk of contacting food, H2 lubricants do not have a defined list of acceptable ingredients. They cannot, however, contain intentionally heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury or selenium. Also, the ingredients must not include substances that are carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens or mineral acids.

H3 lubricants, also known as soluble or edible oil, are used to clean and prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and similar equipment.

The USDA approvals are based on the different FDA Codes in Title 21 that command approval for ingredients used in lubricants that may have incidental contact with food. These are mentioned in the following sections.

  • 1.CFR 178.3570 ­ Allowed ingredients for the manufacture of H1 lubricants
  • 21.CFR 178.3620 ­ White mineral oil as a component of non-food articles intended for use in contact with food
  • 21.CFR 172.878 ­ USP mineral oil for direct contact with food
  • 21 CFR 172.882 ­ Synthetic isoparaffinic hydrocarbons
  • 21.CFR 182 ­ Substances generally recognized as safe

The challenge is knowing whether to use a H1 or H2 lubricant. For example - A lubricant used on a conveyor system running over a food line must be an H1 category oil; however, a conveyor system running underneath a food line may not necessarily be safe to use an H2 oil.

According HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) programme brought in by the USDA, each and every single lubrication point has to be assessed and tested for where contamination might occur. The majority of food-producing companies have begun using the HACCP system, unfortunately their plans and demand for continuous production doesn’t always recognise the importance of a lubrication survey. A number of lubricant suppliers now offer to assist with the lubrication survey. This is hugely beneficial to food and beverage companies and widely appreciated.

H1 lubricants are genetically limited by types of additives and in the past have only used mineral oil basestocks. H1 lubricants in certain instances provided less protection and shorter lubricant life. Now that synthetics are used, some H1 lubricant performance can actually surpass non-food-grade lubricants. This is significant in allowing consolidation and thus avoiding accidental cross contamination of H1 and H2 oils and contamination of H2 oils with food.

To find out more about WP Group please contact us by phone on 0800 980 6172 or email to

Notes For Editors

The WP Group, headquartered near Southampton in Hampshire, is a leading independent distributor of fuels and lubricants, with a £200m annual turnover and employing 70 people.

Based at Wessex House, Cadland Road, Hardley, Hythe, WP offers a complete portfolio of products and bespoke service solutions across each of its eight trading divisions ­ Industrial, Aviation, Agricultural, Heating, Automotive, Commercial, Motorsport and Marine.

WP, located by Fawley Oil Refinery, has a 50-year heritage and is the supplier and support specialist of choice to thousands of businesses.

Wessex House
Cadland Road
SO45 3NY
Telephone: 023 8089 7841
Freefone: 0800 980 6172
Fax: 023 8089 8876

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