Lubrication For Greater Quality Featured

Lubricants may be vital for machines to function properly, but they also have a huge effect on quality control and a company’s bottom-line. By Manjesh Babu, market manager, Klüber Lubrication München

All the food product manufacturers know that the key to a good product is a good recipe. This applies both for the ingredients used in beverage, meat, bakery or dairy products and for the operating materials used in a plant.

Using the right lubricant for the machineries in the food industry is not only essential for the smooth running of the machinery but also plays a vital role in avoiding contamination of food products. Choosing and implementing the right lubrication programme will ensure that a plant operates more safely and efficiently, in addition to making it more profitable.

One of the challenges that food manufacturers are facing today is to avoid contamination of food products during manufacturing, while making production processes as efficient as possible. One of the best practices followed in the industry is to use specially registered and certified lubricants so that the contamination risks in the plant are as low as possible. This control of contamination risks is the key focus area in the HACCP guidelines.

There are many applications in the food industry such as agitators, blowers, mixers, fillers, ovens, compressed air and packing machines, where the lubricant used in components could come into contact with food products. The risk is of using a lubricant that is non-compliant with the regulatory standards of food machinery lubricants and using it for an application which comes in contact with the food product, thereby contaminating the food.

Lubrication Contamination Incidents

Contamination incidents are often costly affairs which result not only in product recalls, but also tarnished consumer confidence that can create huge repercussions on branding. By Sherlyne Yong

While it is often tainted raw ingredients that come under focus, runoffs or leaks from machinery can form potential hazards as well. Below are some examples where food safety was compromised by contamination from non-food grade lubricants.

1996: Jennie-O Foods recalled a total of 4,740 pounds of turkey sausage because it was contaminated with grease.

1998:Smithfield Packing of Kinston, North Carolina, had to recall 490,877 pounds of smoked boneless hams after some were exposed to gear lubricant. Several people who ate the ham complained of a bad taste and a burning in the throat that lasted up to three hours.

1999: Coca-Cola Bottling Works in Tullahoma, Tennessee, recalled both glass and plastic bottles of Coca Cola Classic after it was found to be contaminated with gear lubricant.

2000: Farmland Foods in Kansas City, Missouri had recalled about 86,000 pounds of sliced turkey after complaints that it caused intestinal discomfort and had an unusual colour and odour. It was later revealed that the turkey was exposed to non-food grade lubricants during processing.

2000: A mother in Stoke-on-Trent, England, complained that a can of Heinz Cheesy Parsnip and Potato Bake smelled of tar. It was found to be contaminated with mineral oil lubricant that may have been from a machine in the food manufacturing process or the can manufacturing process.

2002: A consignment of bottled soft drink ‘Big Thirst’ in Victoria, Australia, was recalled due to lubricant contamination. Food Standards Australia indicated that the lubricant may cause irritation if consumed.

2002: Milk powder manufacturer Arinco (owned by Arla Foods) that is based at Vidabaek, Denmark, found contamination in approximately 1,100 tonnes of its milk powder after a customer in Thailand complained it had a pale gray tint. It was contaminated with ½ to ¾ litres of lubricating oil containing very fine iron particles, which seeped out through a ball joint due to a worn axle in a gearbox. This led to a large recall of several brands of milk powder, which included Dumex’s Mamex Infant Formula and Mamil Follow-on in Thailand, Permilac Formula 1 and 2 in China, and Gain in the Philippines.

As evident in the Arinco case, a single contamination incident can literally have far-reaching effects. With increased globalisation and trade, today’s retail environment and supply chains are no longer localised or as straightforward as it used to be. It will therefore be prudent for manufacturers to ensure that both their own processes, as well as their suppliers, are well-managed so that potential risks can be minimised.

NSF Certification


Neil Conway, Toronto, Canada
There are several certifications that are relevant for lubricants in the food industry. Food machinery lubricants have to comply with the food regulations as listed by the certifying authorities. They have to be physiologically inert, should not have any taste or smell and should be internationally approved. Apart from this, food machinery lubricants also have to meet the following general technical requirements.
  • Reduce friction and wear
  • Protect against corrosion
  • Dissipate heat and have a sealing effect

Historically, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but now the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), registers lubricants for use in the food industry.

The lubricant manufacturer has to prove that all the ingredients used in its formulation are on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list of allowable substances, in accordance with the guidelines of security Code of Federal regulations (CFR) 21.

Different Categories Of NSF Certification

NSF H1 lubricants are suitable for incidental, technically unavoidable contact with a food, beverage or pharmaceutical product. These lubricants may be safely used in applications like agitators, blowers, mixers, fillers, ovens, compressed air and packing machines, where the lubricant used in these components could come into contact with food products.

NSF H2 lubricants, on the other hand, are suitable for use in the food-processing, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, provided that contact with the food, beverage or pharmaceutical product is absolutely impossible.

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These lubricants are sometimes referred to as food-plant or food-machinery lubricants in the industry and may be used below the line. The distinction between these two designations—H1 and H2—is especially critical when dealing with issues of contamination and potential product recall.

Many food-manufacturing plants are now using H1 lubricants for the complete production line, in order to reduce the risk of having the wrong lubricant being used in the wrong place, ie: using an H1 lubricant where H2 can be used. This can also result in lower stock inventory and lower costs.

In addition to the above, there are also other categories like NSF 3H, NSF K1, and NSF HT1 for products that are used for different applications like release agents, cleaner and Heat transfer fluid respectively.


New Standard For The Future

Until now, a lubricant’s recipe and its intended use were the only items that were reviewed and regulated. However, the ‘ISO 21469—Safety of machinery—Lubricants with incidental product contact—Hygiene requirements’ certification programme, is much more comprehensive and covers the manufacturing processes too.

ISO 21469 is the international standard for the hygiene requirements for the formulation, manufacture and use of H1 lubricants used in the food-processing and pharmaceutical industries.

The NSF developed a certification procedure on the basis of ISO 21469, which includes annual inspection of the lubricants-producing plant by an NSF auditor to check strict adherence to hygiene requirements, preventing contamination during the manufacture of H1 lubricants.

A good lubrication program impacts on the three biggest pieces of the budget pie—energy consumption, components and labour.

Product samples are taken on an annual basis and analysed for contamination. Even the lubricant packing, storage and use are evaluated during the audit. In order to get a plant certified under ISO 21469:2006, it may be necessary to make some changes in the manufacturing process, calling for heavy investments to enable compliance.

To a food processing company, the ISO certification of a lubricant producer means that not only is a product certified, but the whole manufacturing process is also certified. This entire process ensures complete protection against contamination during lubricant manufacturing.

Halal & Kosher Certification

In addition to the NSF approvals, there are certain approvals associated with religious affiliations that are sought after for incidental food contact. The two key approvals are Kosher and Halal.

For Kosher and Halal, manufacturers of lubricants should ensure that the plant and process where the product is made must be Halal or Kosher compliant, and the components or finished lubricant itself must be Halal or Kosher certified. The Jewish dietary laws are termed as Kosher and the Muslim dietary laws are termed as Halal.

Halal Lubricants—A Stamp Of Approval

The growing Muslim community worldwide has led to a substantial demand for Halal products. What makes a product halal, and what guidelines do manufacturers have to adhere to? By Sherlyne Yong

With an increased production of Halal foodstuff, food grade lubricant manufacturers have also started to explore the opportunities in this sector, especially in countries like Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia where halal food products are frequently manufactured.

IFRC According to the Islamic Food Research Centre Asia (IFRC Asia), the process of halal certification for food grade lubricants is similar to other products, which requires the filling in of an application form and following through a standard procedure.

All products, inclusive of its ingredients and processing flow, have to be declared. The manufacturing plant must also undergo a compulsory desk audit and site inspection before the product can be approved as Halal.

In addition, the product has to adhere to several guidelines which state that:
  1. It must be free from non-halal animals, as listed in the Codex Alimentarius General Guideline For the Use of the Halal Term CAC/GL 24-1997.
  2. If a halal animal ingredient is used (slaughtered according to Islamic Law), it must be tanned or truly cleaned through washing, or any other methods of cleaning such as blowing, or being placed under sunlight.

These guidelines might impose limitations on the variety of additives or thickeners that can be used in the food grade lubrication formulation, as substances like alcohol and by-products from non-halal animals (eg: pig, animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but God) are Haram (prohibited).

Lifting The Bottom-Line

Lubricants are a small part of the whole plant operating budget. However, the real cost benefit of a lubricant, which facility managers cannot see in the lubricant budget, shows up in other areas. A good lubrication programme impacts on the three biggest pieces of the budget pie: energy consumption, components (spare parts inventory) and labour.

If facility managers are using the right lubricant, which extends the duration of relubrication intervals, they can save on maintenance personnel’s time, because they do not have to lubricate the machines as often.

Facility managers also save money, when it comes to spare inventory, because components last longer. This saved capital can then be used for other projects.

Meanwhile, energy efficiency is something which is important to everyone. When using a high-quality, specialty lubricant, facility managers not only drive up efficiency, they also see a decrease in the amount of energy needed to operate the overall facility.

Through these factors, it can be seen that food grade lubricants plays a role in contributing towards a safe and hygienic processing facility. This in turn benefits users, not just with lower contamination risks, but also with time and budget savings.

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  • Last modified on Thursday, 21 November 2013 15:16
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