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Food & Beverage Common Misconceptions about Food-Grade Lubricants

Because safety and productivity are both critical to the food-and-beverage processing industry, it’s important to eliminate two common misconceptions.

First, let’s be clear that the old idea that industrial lubricants can be used depending on whether the application is “above the line or below the line” is not a good idea. That line of thinking is based on the belief that anything inside a gearbox below a conveyor belt will not reach the food above it. Unfortunately, this belief results in the lubricant cabinet being stocked with lubricants that may contain:

  • Barium, which is used as a detergent in lubricants, but can cause cardiac irregularities and paralysis.
  • Lithium, which is used to improve high-temperature performance of lubricants, but when ingested in salt form can be neurotoxic.
  • Black graphite, which provides a dry lubricant layer, but is associated with respiratory problems.

To be safe, the lube cabinet and the plant should strive to eliminate all substances that could cause serious contamination. Regarding lubricants, however, this may not be done due to another misconception: the false idea that using a food-grade lubricant will compromise machine performance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Food grade lubricants can be formulated using synthetics that deliver high performance without compromising safety. For example, industrial chain oil is typically comprised of mineral oil and black graphite. Neither substance meets NSF H1 food-grade-lubricant standards. However, using a high-temperature ester oil can provide the same high-temperature performance and comply with NSF H1 and ISO 21469 standards.

For food and beverage applications, it’s important to talk to a supplier who can select the correct lubricant chemistry to avoid laboring under a false conception.

Questions? Post a comment below or download our white paper on converting to all food-grade lubricants.

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