Food grade lubricants must perform the same technical functions as conventional lubricants. Additionally, they should resist degradation of food products and exhibit neutral chemical behavior toward food processing equipment and food packaging materials while complying with food/health safety regulations. Food grade lubricants can be derived from petroleum or produced synthetically. Based on base oil, food grade lubricants can be classified into mineral oil based, synthetic oil based, and biobased. Food grade lubricants play an important role in the food industry due to the beneficial properties of aluminum complex thickened grease such as high temperature resistance, water resistance, and chemical inertness toward food processing equipment. Food grade lubricants primarily used in food & beverage, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries.
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The three primary types of food grade lubricants are H1 lubricants, H2 lubricants, and H3 soluble oils. H1 lubricants are approved for incidental contact with food in food processing environments. These lubricants are used as anticorrosion protective films for sealing tank closures and as lubricants for equipment parts in situations where the machine part is potentially exposed to food. H2 lubricants are employed in locations that do not carry the possibility of the lubricant or the lubricating part coming into contact with food. H3 soluble oils are applied on hooks, conveying belts, and similar equipment for prevention of corrosion. Special grades include HT1, which are lubricants that are used as heat transfer fluids in locations with food contact possibilities. Significant performance improvements have been carried out in the recently introduced food grade lubricants. These include superior wear protection, and increased thermal and oxidative stability. These food grade lubricants are also accredited with halal and kosher certifications.
NSF International, a public health and safety company, is a global leader in the development of standards, certification of products, and assessment of risks of food grade lubricants. It offers services to manufacturers in more than 80 countries in developing national standards and providing third party conformity assessment. NSF registration is becoming an industrial standard for food grade lubricant manufacturers in many countries. Most countries are not obligated legally to adopt NSF standards; however, manufacturers conform to these to reduce the risk exposure. Global demand for food grade lubricants is rising primarily due to the growth in the global food processing industry and introduction of highly stringent food safety laws. The U.S. has a high number of regulations for food safety and also accounts for large share of the global food grade lubricants market.
However, majority of food and beverage companies in the U.S. do not use H1 grade food lubricants or use along with H2 grades in their plants. Increase in awareness about H1 grades through programs conducted by NSF are reversing this trend. Europe is also set to witness growth in the use of food grade lubricants due to the recent enactment of governmental regulations. Economic growth in China and India coupled with lifestyle changes has boosted the demand for processed food products this countries. Awareness about food safety is increasing in China and India due to a series of food contamination scandals. Government regulations regarding food safety are expected to be introduced in these countries in the near future. Thus, China and India are likely to be rapidly growing markets for food grade lubricants over the next decade. Among the grade types, the H1 food grade is expected to acquire significant market share in the near future.
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Key players operating in the food lubricants market are ExxonMobil Corp, Petro-Canada, MDS Europe Ltd, Elba Lubrication Inc, The Dow Chemical Company, The Lubrizol Corporation, Matrix Specialty Lubricants, Bel-Ray Company Llc, SKF Group, and BP p.l.c.