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What to Consider When Selecting Lubricants for Food Processing Equipment

Food processing machinery needs food-grade lubrication to ensure smooth operation, optimal performance, and food safety. Here, we explore the top considerations for lubricating food processing machinery.

Table of Contents

Seafood food processing equipment

Lubrication ensures smooth operation and optimal performance of machinery across a broad range of industries. However, when it comes to food processing and food-grade lubrication, there are some important and unique factors to consider:

Food-grade certifications

When it comes to food processing, safety is paramount. That’s why specific food-grade lubricants use safe, non-toxic ingredients that meet specific food industry certifications to ensure food products remain uncontaminated. Regulatory bodies, such as the Food Standards Agency and the Food Safety Authority, have established guidelines and standards for food-safe lubricants, meaning that all lubricants approved for use within food processing don’t contain harmful or hazardous substances that could contaminate food products. Food processing plants need to choose lubricants that are specially formulated and certified for food-grade applications, such as NSF, H1, or H2 certifications. 

Compatibility with food processing equipment

Food processing equipment must operate in demanding conditions, including high temperatures, high loads, and exposure to water or moisture. Food-grade lubricants must be compatible with machinery whilst also contending with these harsh conditions and providing protection against wear, corrosion, and oxidation. Additionally, food-grade lubricants must resist washout by water or steam, as food processing environments necessitate regular washdowns and cleaning.

Performance and maintenance requirements

In food processing facilities, equipment downtimes are often costly and can severely disrupt production schedules. Effective food-grade lubricants offer long-lasting performance that minimises the need for maintenance and reduces the risk of downtime. Lubricants with superior film strength, thermal stability, and anti-wear properties can help extend equipment life and reduce the frequency of lubricant application. In addition, lubricants that are easy to apply and dispense can simplify maintenance procedures and improve efficiency. 

Keeping these principles in mind when selecting lubricants for food processing facilities can help ensure the safety and reliability of products, equipment, and processes. Consulting with lubrication experts or partnering with reputable suppliers can help you choose the right lubricant solutions for your specific needs.

Apples on conveyor

The importance of using food-grade lubricants in food processing facilities

Prioritising food safety is paramount for all food processing facilities. Lubricants utilised within the facilities are pivotal in upholding the quality of food products. Here, we explore the importance of employing food-grade lubricants, the regulatory framework surrounding them, and the potential hazards linked to non-food-grade lubricants within food facilities:

H1 and 3H

H1 lubricants are sanctioned for incidental food contact, whereas 3H lubricants serve as release agents that can have direct contact with food, such as in bread pans or conveyors. H1 lubricants should not be added to food intentionally, though they are food-safe, as they pose no significant harm if consumed. The H1 safety characteristic reduces the risk of unnoticed or unidentified contamination occurrences.

ISO compliance and documentation

Employing food-grade lubricants is crucial for meeting ISO audit and quality management system requirements like BRC. These standards enforce strict food safety and quality management practices, necessitating comprehensive documentation and traceability of all materials used in food processing facilities. Food-grade lubricants are equipped with certifications and documentation that confirm their compliance with relevant regulations, facilitating the provision of necessary documentation during audits.

Risks of non-food grade lubricants

Having both food-grade and non-food-grade lubricants in the same facility can pose significant risks in food processing environments where contamination risks are high.

  • Cross-contamination: mixing non-food grade lubricants increases the risk of cross-contamination. If non-food grade lubricants come into contact with food products, there is a potential for the lubricant to contaminate the food, compromising its safety. 
  • Compliance: using non-food grade lubricants in food processing environments can lead to regulatory non-compliance. Industry regulations and standards often mandate food-grade lubricants to ensure food safety. Mixing non-food-grade lubricants with food-grade lubricants can result in fines or legal action.
  • Human error: having both lubricant types in the same facility can lead to confusion among employees, increasing the likelihood of using the wrong lubricant for application, leading to equipment damage, downtime, and a potential food safety risk. 

Food-grade lubricant

The role of lubrication in minimising downtime and contamination risks in food processing

In a food production facility, minimising machine downtime and preventing unexpected line stoppages are critical for maintaining productivity and ensuring product safety. While downtime can occur for various reasons, including maintenance and repairs, it is essential to address lubrication-related issues to avoid costly interruptions and potential contamination risks.

The importance of lubrication

Lubrication is vital in ensuring smooth operation and longevity of machinery in food processing facilities. Proper lubrication minimises friction, reduces wear and tear, and prevents overheating, enhancing equipment performance. By implementing a comprehensive lubrication programme, you can mitigate the risk of unexpected machine failures and extend the lifespan of critical components.

Preventing contamination

One of the primary concerns in the food-processing industry is the potential for contamination when a machine malfunctions. If a machine involved in processing, mixing, or packaging ceases to function correctly, there is a heightened risk of contaminants entering the food product. Malfunction can compromise the safety and quality of the final product, leading to potential health hazards and reputational damage.

Address this risk by selecting lubricants specifically designed for food processing applications. Food-grade lubricants, certified to meet industry standards, are formulated with non-toxic ingredients and are designed to resist degradation when exposed to food substances. These lubricants help minimise the risk of contamination and ensure compliance with food safety regulations.

Enhancing equipment reliability

Regular lubrication maintenance is essential to keep machinery running smoothly and prevent unexpected breakdowns. By adhering to recommended lubrication schedules and using the appropriate lubricants, you can minimise friction, reduce component wear, and extend the life of critical machine parts. This proactive approach to lubrication helps prevent unplanned downtime and associated costs, such as lost productivity and missed deadlines.

Choosing the right lubricant

Selecting the suitable lubricant for each machine and application is crucial to optimising performance and minimising downtime. Factors to consider when choosing lubricants include temperature range, load capacity, compatibility with materials, and resistance to washout or degradation. Consulting with lubrication experts or relying on tribology specialists can help identify the most suitable lubricants for your specific machinery and operating conditions. 

Implementing a lubrication programme

It’s essential to establish a comprehensive lubrication programme tailored to your facility’s needs. This programme should include regular equipment inspections, lubricant analysis, and scheduled lubricant replenishment. By monitoring lubricant condition and performance, you can detect potential issues early on, preventing equipment failures and minimising downtime.

In the food processing industry, effective lubrication practices are crucial for minimising downtime, preventing contamination risks and ensuring product safety and quality. By implementing a comprehensive lubrication programme, selecting food-grade lubricants, and adhering to recommended maintenance schedules, you can enhance equipment reliability, reduce unplanned downtime, and protect your brand’s reputation. Remember, partnering with lubrication and tribology experts can provide valuable insights and guidance to optimise your lubrication practices and ensure smooth operation in your food processing facility.

JAX food-grade lubricants

JAX lubricants save costs and extend machine life. They meet NSF 3H requirements for direct food contact and NSF H1 requirements for occasional contact in the food and beverage processing industries.

The JAX brand has become a global benchmark in the formulation and manufacture of high-quality synthetic lubricants for the food industry. The brand manufactures new lubricants with unique processes based on innovation and advanced technologies, as well as by carrying out emergency tests in its RPM laboratory. 

JAX food-grade lubricants

For more information on JAX products for use in the food industry, click here to view the JAX brand page and browse the product catalogue per food sector. 


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