Food Industry Lubricants Discussed


LISBON-European manufacturers of H1 lubricants for the food industry say they are concerned about what they view as potentially misleading terminology being used to label and advertise their products.

At issue, according to Helga Thomas of Kluber Lubrication in Munich, is the generic term food-grade lubricant. It had been agreed that this is a term that should be avoided because it is potentially misleading, according to Thomas.

Thomas made her comments last monthat an ELGI working group meeting heldduring the2012 Congress of European Lubricants Industry. She and her fellow delegates were concerned that NSF International used the term in advertisements for its 2012 WhiteBook, a registry of products for use in the food processing industry.

Lubricants are not a part of food, and thus should not be advertised like this, she said. If ambiguous wording like food grade lubricant is used, authorities in Europe and Asia could get the impression that H1 lubricants are on the same risk level as food additives, which is in conflict with existing food law.

Andre Adam of Fragol GmbH+Co. KG in Mulheim, Germany, who chaired the ELGI working group, agreed. As an industry, we have to show a responsible position. If we cant look out after ourselves, there will be a lawmaker somewhere who will, which could be harmful.

H1 lubricants are used in food-processing environments where there is a possibility of incidental food contact. H2 lubricants are used on equipment and machine parts in manufacturing and industrial operations where there is no possibility of contact with foodstuffs. H3 lubricants are typically edible oils, used to prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and similar equipment.

Work group participants said that while there is consensus that H1 should be the leading term for incidental-contact lubes, the designation is not sufficiently known in the user market. This is caused in part because the registering bodies [NSF International of Ann Arbor, Mich., and InS Services of Rugeley, Staffordshire, U.K.] promote their brand above the registration, resulting in unclear market information, Adams said.

As for the other major food industry lubricant designation, H2, Adam believes the only reason to continue it, is for lubricant companies that offer these lubricants as a cheaper alternative to H1 lubricants.

Adam declared that, It would be good if the lubricant industry would discontinue [H2] registration, but that it is unlikely discontinuation would be supported. The best option is to better inform final users of the lubricants.

Working group members also noted that confusion exists over H3 and another category, 3H lubricants. The 3H product category is generally not understood outside of the United States, Adams noted. In food preparation, 3H lubricants can be used on grills, load pans, cutters, boning benches, chopping blocks or other hard surfaces to help prevent food from adhering during processing.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created the original food-grade classification system in 1962 and maintained it until 1998, when it was succeeded by NSF International and later InS Services of Great Britain.

According to panel members, the H1, H2, H3 designations became less important when the European Union adopted REACH, the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use. REACH entered into force in June 2007.

What the food lubricants industry really needs, Adam says, is to simply the classification system.