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New EHEDG guidance on the use of food-grade lubricants

22 July 2019

The European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) Lubricants Working Group updated its EHEDG Guideline Doc. 23 which includes information on how to properly use food-grade H1 and HT1 registered lubricants. 

This document is designed as a guide to the implementation and use of food-safe lubricants and lubrication practices. It is intended for use by food & beverage production companies (and other clean industries) but is also a guide for good lubrication practice for all industries. The document is suitable for use by audit companies and internal auditors and for this should be considered alongside suitable training also available from EHEDG.

Most industrial production machines need lubricants to function properly. Lubricants avoid wear and prevent internal damage resulting from friction by mechanical forces. All lubricants are meant to establish some kind of ‘aquaplaning’ to separate moving components with a lubricant layer, but only H1 and HT1 registered food grade lubricants also take food safety into account. 

There are many parameters that determine the quality and effectiveness of lubricants, including temperature. As a rule of thumb: an incremental temperature increase of only 10°C will halve the lifetime of most lubricants. Synthetic lubricants offer a better heat resistance and flow ability at low temperatures, and some fluorinated lubricants are even applicable for temperatures of up to 280°C so they can be used to lubricate conveyor bearings in ovens. Another parameter is speed. Machines that operate rather slowly need thicker lubricants with higher viscosities than machines with fast rotating components. 

The new guidance document includes new elements such as a list of requirements and recommendations for the use and storage of food grade lubricants, tips to minimise product contamination risks and information on the deterioration of lubricants during operation and the use of lubricants during maintenance. It includes real life examples with pictures, and a flowchart that illustrates how to shift from conventional to food grade lubricants. The guidance also aims to clarify a lot of misunderstandings about lubricants, especially with regard to the H1 and HT1 registrations that are often unrightfully perceived as EC 1935/2004 food contact materials regulation.

The use of high-quality food grade lubricants can be a good investment. By using H1 and HT1 registered lubricants, food lubricant experts have managed to reduce their processing downtimes related to re-lubrication by up to 90%. The EHEDG guideline helps users to make technical, but also well-thought-out economical decisions. Because the better a lubricant matches an application, the less time and effort is needed to keep the process running smoothly. 

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