ILMA Polices Lube Labeling

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A quality testing program conducted by the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association found that six of 20 engine oils samples it checked, and 11 of the 20 tractor hydraulic fluids, were misrepresented, with deficiencies ranging from labeling mistakes to viscosity errors to mishandling of additives.
In most cases the ILMA members voluntarily reformulated and/or relabeled the lubricants; four claimed they were misled by their additive supplier.
Jim Taglia of NL Grease reported to the association at its annual meeting here Monday about the results of the latest round of random testing of members passenger car engine oils and tractor hydraulic fluids. In 2008, the associations third-party sample collection firm picked up 20 samples each of motor oil and tractor fluid, from a list of randomly selected member brands.
The 40 samples were coded and tested in a third-party laboratory, and the results showed that 30 percent of the engine oil samples and 55 percent of the tractor fluid samples differed significantly from the claims on the products labels, for characteristics such as viscosity and additive treat rate.
ILMA is not telling its members what they can or cannot make, Taglia emphasized. Rather, our goal is that labels need to be accurate; there can be no misrepresentation. The Alexandria, Va.-based trade group focused its monitoring on passenger car engine oils and tractor fluids, he noted, because members said they were the biggest problem areas for misrepresentation.
The association adopted an enforceable code of ethics in 1984, and initiated its program of testing members lubricants in 2007, to assure adherence to the code.
Of the six engine oil samples found to have problems, three had issues with the mini-rotary viscometer test, two had viscosity problems, and for one the issue was friction modification. The resolution, said Taglia, is that one company is no longer an ILMA member, and three agreed to reformulate their products. These three companies agreed to submit testing data and samples for up to a year to assure that their lubricants meet the specifications they claim.
Questions about the two final engine oil samples, both from the same company, have not been resolved yet. ILMAs Ethics Committee is addressing the issues with the companies involved, said Taglia.
The 11 tractor hydraulic fluid samples with problems fell into two categories, Taglia continued. Nine had Brookfield issues – for example, the blenders had claimed the fluids met a list of OEM specs with conflicting Brookfield requirements. The other two had additive content issues.
To resolve the tractor fluid issues, said Taglia, one company is no longer an ILMA member; four companies reformulated products and modified their data sheets; and in four cases the labels and promotional materials were amended. Two cases are unresolved and are being handled by the ILMA Ethics Committee.
In most cases, the outcome has been good, positive resolutions for everybody, said Taglia. Almost everyone had no issue with being caught up in the program. They were happy to make their products better.
Taglia expressed little sympathy for the four independent blenders who claimed they had been misled by their additive suppliers. He indicated that blenders still are ultimately responsible for understanding the quality representations they make for their products. But to address this issue, he said, ILMA in 2010 will initiate a new ethics affirmation for supplier members. Starting in January, supplier members of ILMA will be required to affirm that their products are not misrepresented and will agree to have products randomly tested, as a condition of membership – just as the independent lubricant manufacturing members now do.
ILMA is working with its additive supplier members now, said Taglia, to create the chemical profiles necessary to test engine oil and tractor fluid additives.
Taglia also reported that the association has been exploring ways to put more bite into its ethics program, beyond excluding companies from membership. At the state level, he said, his task force has met with weights and measures officials, and has made initial contact with one states attorney general about possible fraud in the marketing of misrepresented lubricants.
This is bite, said Taglia. Weights and measures can fine you, but the attorney general can put you behind bars.

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