Food Grade Lubricants
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all lubricants used in
the food industry. Food grade lubricants are used in slicers, grinders,
mixers, conveyors, bottling machines, sealing equipment, and various
other packaging machines. These lubricants prevent wear between moving
parts and ensure that machines continue to run properly.
Food grade lubricants are extreme-pressure, synthetic lubricants designed for industrial machinery in which incidental contact may occur between food and lubricants. In the food industry, lubricant issues in the past revolved around the amount of heat a lubricant could stand, which was not enough for the oven temperatures necessary to properly cook food. The base oils used for the grease and oil food grade lubricants today are able to withstand 600°F and hotter, ensuring that the ovens, compressors and pellet mills, among other products and machines used in the food industry are protected against corrosion and do not build up unnecessary friction between moving parts. Specific branches of the food industry that require strictly food grade lubricants include: meat, poultry or fish processing plants, candy and snack plants, dairies and creameries, beverage and bottling plants and pharmaceutical plants. Lubricants also act as oxidation and machine aging blockers. Many of the food grade lubricants are used in other industries as well, such as industrial manufacturing, medical, construction and shipping and packaging industries.
Synthetic lubricants are chemical compounds that usually begin with a base of silicone, ester, glycol, fluorinated lubricants or polyalphaolefin (PAO). The elements they are mixed with depend upon the application requirements. Biodegradable lubricants are preferred in the food service industry because of the contact that occurs between consumable goods and lubricated machinery. The base of these lubricants are usually vegetable oil, although recently genetically altered soybeans have been used for a base oil, since they have greater oxidative and viscosity stability. Viscosity levels are what define the major difference between oil lubes and grease lubes. Low viscosity means the substance is fluid, like oil, while high viscosity means the fluid is thicker and moves slowly, if at all, like grease. Specialized polymer greases provide protection for equipment in the food industry. Food grade lubricants are usually colorless and odorless. One such lubricant, petroleum jelly, is commonly used for lubricating the equipment used in the manufacturing and preparing of food products.