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Putting food safety first

12 February, 2014

Food safety is something we all take for granted and put our trust in manufacturers and the government to enforce 'paddock to plate' safety protocols.

Food processing equipment comes into contact with lubricants for a variety of purposes such as to reduce friction between moving parts and therefore these lubricants must qualify as NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) H1 (lubricants with incidental food contact) to reduce the risk of contamination.

"The issues around food contamination, even just having a food contamination scare are massive," said Luke McGregor, product manager, FUCHS Lubricants Australia.

"Recently there was a scare with a food manufacturer in New Zealand, who were changing systems from one to another and rather than overlapping them, they stopped one and started the other and a couple of batches fell between the systems. There was then the suggestion that there might have been a problem with one of the batches of food that they'd manufactured, but they weren't sure which one.

"At this stage it is only the suggestion that there might be a problem and no one has been injured, but the result of this was that their products have been banned from import in China and it has massively hurt their reputation."

The costs of failing to meet food safety standards can be devastating and reputation damaging.  Risk assessments need to be conducted to ensure this doesn't happen and policies on lubrication usage devised.

McGregor continued: "People use a combination of non-food grade and food grade lubricants because they are trying to reduce costs. The issue is that they are usually kept in the same lubricant store on site. Most errors occur when someone picks up the wrong lubricant and then goes and puts that into a machine that is supposed to be using food grade. To eliminate that risk of human error, we recommend that companies look to move to food grade lubricants across the board."

FUCHS, leading German lubricant manufacturer have developed the 'CASSIDA'  range of food grade lubricants and provide a site assessment from a member of their trained technical team to identify any areas that require food grade lubricants – some that you may not have even considered.

McGregor explained: "It's quite often that there will be an overhead gearbox and we'll ask what lubricant is it using, and they say standard gear oil and we say, well, if that was to leak, where would it end up?"

Food production companies with good operational practices often use exclusively food-grade lubricants, even in areas that are not expected to come into contact with food, as a precaution.

"At the end of the day if you use all food grade, you've taken away the risk of using non-food grade in a food grade application by error," commented McGregor.

"CASSIDA are the best lubricants you can buy. With gear oils, hydraulic oils, lubricating greases and even special maintenance aerosols, every aspect of the food manufacturing process is covered.

"CASSIDA products are fully synthetic lubricants. The fluids are all zinc and ash free and all CASSIDA products are manufactured in 3 dedicated plants which all have an ISO21469 certification. This is the real gold standard, meaning that NSF have come in and done a full audit on the plant to ensure that the production of lubricants and the raw materials being used are all up to scratch and random audits ensure sure that there is no possibility of cross-contamination within the plant.

"What H1 qualifications don't take into account is the way lubricants are manufactured, in terms of potential cross contamination in the lubricant production process, which is where the ISO21469 standard comes in to ensure the plant where they are made is safe.

"The other thing with CASSIDA is that because it is synthetic, typically they last significantly longer in application, so there are advantages in how long they'll last and the level of protection they provide to your machinery."

"You're putting in the best level of protection for your machine so the number of unplanned breakdowns and maintenance is reduced. You have to change lubricants less often, have less breakdowns and less lost production. These costs are critical."

Each year, FUCHS conducts a number of hazard analyses at food production sites.

"We go through the plant and run through every stage of the production process and we look at every lubrication critical point and note what is currently being used. We then rate in our opinion what the risk involved is and then we make a recommendation," explained McGregor.

Having a range of lubricants that perform a number of functions and are all food-grade compliant gives companies the peace of mind that they won't be putting customers at risk.

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