China’s Appetite Whet for Food-grade Lubes

More Chinese blenders are registering their lubricants under NSF Internationals program for food-grade compounds. The latest to do so, Beijia Lubrication Science & Technology, said its motivation was to comply with its customers demands and to stay ahead of tightening food safety regulations.

The Luohe, Henan province-based blender gained H1 registration for five of its products, including four circulating oils and one grease, meaning that the lubricants are safe for use in food processing machines in which they may make incidental contact with food.

For Beijia, getting H1 certification is the first step to bring our food-grade business to the next level, Hu Jigen, Beijias general manager, told Lube Report Asia.

He admitted that the major reason Beijia opted to pay the fee required for H1 registration - around U.S. $5,000 - was pressure to do so from one its largest clients, Shuanghui Group, a top meat processing company that is also based in Luohe.

Beijia may have continued supplying non-registered products to Shuanghui if the latter hadnt acquired United States-based Smithfield Foods in 2013, which resulted in a tightening of its health and safety policies.

As a company in the U.S., Smithfield is very strict on food safety and has specific demand for the quality of the lubes used during food processing, Hu said. Now that Shuanghui is the parent company, it has to integrate such requirements into its supply chain, which includes Beijia.

Beijia sees the benefit of food-grade lubricant registration extending beyond its Shuanghui business. Hu said that while the food industry may be a niche segment for lube demand, its competitive. He explained that all suppliers to the industry will eventually be forced to comply with Chinas ongoing tightening of food production regulations, such as its Food Safety Law of 2015, which is stricter than the previous version.

We certainly dont want to wait for the day to come because we intend to be on the top in the sector, Hu added.

Applying for NSFs H1 registration is not difficult, according to Ashlee Breitner, business manager of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based organizations nonfood compounds program. She said that lube companies need only to submit their products label and formulation details. If both meet NSF criterion, the process is simple.

As China begins to focus more on food safety, she added, NSF is seeing more blenders there seeking registration. So far, 54 companies from China have registered 608 products under different food-grade categories, including H2, which is for lubes used in food-processing equipment where there is no possibility of contact with food.

Beijias ambitions extend beyond H1 approval. The company, which has a lab in Houston, applied to NSF for ISO 21469 certification, which is a hygiene program accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

Beijia had its newest blending plant built in accordance to ISO 21469 standards. Hu said the 50,000 metric tons per year facility, which employs corrosion-resistant, 304-grade stainless steel, cost three to five times higher than a regular lube facility.

If its NSF audit of the facility scheduled for early next year is successful, Hu said hes confident that Beijia will be the first lube supplier in China - and possibly in Asia - to get the approval. With this approval, we are going to be a lot more competitive in the global market, and we can be a true global supplier for big food companies, he concluded.

Photo: Laurentiu lordache / Fotolia