For companies that deal with food, drink or medication, the health and safety of their customers are their biggest priority. High standards of hygiene and sanitation are demanded all the way from production to the time they reach the end user. Leakages can happen and are an unavoidable part of all industry and maintenance. These lubricants won’t discriminate when it comes to the material it comes in contact with. It is vital for these industries to select the right lubricant for the job, but there is a vast amount of regulations and registrations that must be met.
Food grade or incidental contact lubricants are specifically designed to meet strict regulatory limitations. This means that the base oils, thickeners and performance additives used to create the lubricant are measured and controlled by a fraction of a percent in overall formulations. Why is this so critical? Because on occasion even with extreme care and due diligence, transfer of trace amounts of lubricant to a food contact surface, food packaging or the food itself may occur. When this happens, a processor has to make difficult decisions about the safety of its product and whether it is unfit for distribution. This could lead to a number of drastic measures – product disposal, destruction or, in the worst case, recall. Using food grade lubricants offers processors much better odds of avoiding such costly mistakes.
No ordinary lubricant
Food grade lubricants are often discussed in relation to HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control point) plans within food processing operations. The advantage of using food grade lubricants is their ability of limiting the introduction of potentially hazardous chemicals that could contaminate the food product and cause harm to human health if ingested. Most processors understand that food grade lubricants are a practical solution to addressing critical control points or processes where contact between the food and lubricant is possible due to exposed lubrication points or the proximity of the machinery to the production line.
What is less obvious, but just as important, is to appreciate that food grade lubricants are helping the food industry address some of its most current and pressing food safety concerns. Today’s food processors are focused on numerous issues that affect consumers worldwide including areas such as allergen control, microbial contamination, traceability, smart packaging compatibility and workforce management. The global lubricant industry has advanced the chemistry of lubricant formulation significantly over the past ten to fifteen years, bringing performance to new levels. The use of food grade lubricants offers processors much better odds of avoiding such costly mistakes.
An increasingly important factor in protecting consumers’ health and safety is allergen control. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 2014 summary of food recalls for agricultural products cited more than 40 individual product recalls due to undeclared allergens. In fact, meat and poultry products were recalled due to allergen issues more often than any other reason cited, including contamination or processing defects. The USDA also reports a consistent trend of increasing recalls year-over-year due to allergen mislabelling or contamination, with the highest number yet predicted for 2015. One challenge for global food manufacturers is that international requirements for allergen labelling and control are inconsistent – covering a wide-ranging array of allergenic substances from the commonly recognised eggs and soy, to sulphites, sesame and even bee pollen. The good news is that food grade lubricants (whether H1 Registered or ISO 21469 Certified) place an emphasis on careful ingredient traceability and control. This means a food grade lubricant supplier should be able to confirm the presence or absence of the most common allergenic substances, eliminating the lubricant as a potential source of allergen contamination.
Global markets and regulatory compliance
Food safety regulations are constantly evolving and the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is no exception. While FSMA is a regulation enacted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it will have global implications for food suppliers. According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s report on processed food imports, the European Union collectively exported more than $18 billion (USD) in processed food to the United States in 2014. Now that FSMA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food rule is final, with compliance dates for some businesses starting in September of 2016, covered facilities must establish and implement a food safety system that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls. Preventive controls are measures required to ensure that hazards will be minimised or prevented and can include process, food allergen and sanitation controls, as well as supply-chain controls and a recall plan. The FSMA rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for importers of Food for Humans and Animals is now final and compliance dates for some businesses begin in 18 months. This means that importers must verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards. In practice, this translates into increased scrutiny on hygiene and processing plant controls for food producers making products intended to ship to the U.S. market. For processors looking to improve their maintenance plan, using registered food grade lubricants is an excellent and straightforward option.
Keeping harmful microbes at bay
Some food grade lubricants on the market today incorporate special additives that help minimise the growth of microbial organisms. These anti-microbial properties may be useful under certain use conditions where machinery is in frequent contact with organic matter or exposed to steam and moisture or is difficult to clean. Anti-microbials within an overall lubricant formulation can help extend the life of the lubricant itself and may provide some protection against the growth of organisms in and around lubricated parts and recesses in processing equipment. However, there are mixed perceptions around these particular lubricants. Food processors must perform due diligence and ask the right questions when considering lubricants with anti-microbial claims or properties. The first priority is to ensure that the lubricant manufacturer has secured the appropriate regulatory approvals for any preservative or anti-microbial claim. In many countries, including the U.S., anti-microbial or preservative claims must be backed by scientific data that support both the efficacy and the safety of the product. In the European Union, lubricants containing anti-microbial additives fall under the Biocidal Product Regulation (BPR, Regulation (EU) 528/2012) and are considered bio-treated products. To ensure the lubricant or anti-microbial ingredient has been thoroughly reviewed for safety and regulatory compliance, food processors should ask for verification of legal compliance for the appropriate geographical market. Lastly, food processors must be mindful that using a lubricant with anti-microbial properties is no substitute for robust inspection, cleaning and sanitisation practices – these are still mandatory for ensuring safe, hygienic conditions.
‘Food processors must perform due diligence and ask the right questions when considering lubricants with anti-microbial claims or properties.’
What every processor should know
There are a few final critical recommendations that food processor looking to switch to food grade lubricants or expand use within their current facility operations. Here are a few key points to keep front of mind:
· Most reputable suppliers have products backed by independent registrations, such as H1 Registration or ISO 21469 Certification by NSF International (www.nsfwhitebook.org).
· Be certain your supplier understands the unique nature of your operations.
· Work with a lubricant manufacturer who understands food safety principles and is knowledgeable about the risks and controls inherent in food production. Invest in a partnership, not just a product.
The Nevastane range
Available from Finol today, Total has developed the Nevastane range, a group of NSF H1 registered products for use in industries where incidental contact with food can occur. These products allow you to avoid the consequences created in the event that the lubricants come into contact with food accidentally. You can view our full range of Nevastane products by clicking here and to learn more about our full range of products you can contact a member of our experienced team by clicking here.