3 Categories of Lubricants Related to Food Safety

Food manufacturing process showing the use of lubricants for food safety
Food manufacturing process showing the use of lubricants for food safety.

Proper lubrication will protect all moving parts and optimise production.

Over time, ingredients used to make these lubricants have been changing to meet the industry’s evolving technological and safety standards. One area of major concern was the safety of some lubricants for human consumption. To address this issue, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divided lubricants into various, different categories, with a guide for best use practices for each category. The following are the three categories of lubricants related to food safety:

H1 Lubricants

H1 is the designated category for all approved food-safe lubricants. Note that this does not mean that the lubricant is to be eaten. It is only to facilitate the strong possibility that during operation a small amount of lubricant may get into the food.

H2 Lubricants

H2-designated lubricants are deemed unsafe for use in food handling areas, or at least areas in which incidental or direct food contact may occur. At one stage, they recognize “above the line” and “below the line” to show risks related to food on a conveyor line or table. H2 could then be used for “below the line” applications for example a gearbox below the conveyor.

H3 Lubricants

H3-designated lubricants are those which must mix with food and in some cases, constitute part of the food. This happens in the case of food release agents such as lard for baking tins, and hooks for hanging foods.

The National Sanitation Foundation, NSF, has taken over the certification but still uses the H1, H2, and H3 designations.