Food Grade Lubricants


Q: What are the classifications for Food grade lubricants?

If you’ve ever dealt with food grade lubricants in the past, you would have noticed that not all food grade lubricants are made to the same standard. When we think about it from a manufacturing standpoint, we can understand the need for varying specifications.

For instance, in a facility there are components that will come into contact directly with the food while there are others that will never make contact with the product being produced for consumption. As with all specifications, the prices of the lubricants created for regular non-food grade usage will differ from those that are specifically designed for food grade usage.

NSF Standards

NSF International is the body responsible for protecting and improving global human health. They also facilitate the development of public health standards and provide certifications that help protect food, water, consumer products and the environment.

Here are the different specifications for each of the food grades (used in most countries)1:

NSF H1 – General or Incidental Contact

NSF H2 – General – no contact

NSF H3 – Soluble oils

NSF HX-1 – Ingredients for use in H1 lubricants (incidental contact) [usually additives]

NSF HX-2 – Ingredients for use in H2 lubricants (no contact) [usually additives]

NSF HX-3 – Ingredients for use in H3 lubricants (soluble contact) [usually additives]


Usually using a NSF certified lubricant goes hand in hand with an HACCP based food safety program (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).


Here's a bit more info on the Categories and where they should be used3:

  • H1 - food grade lubricants used in food processing environments where there is a possibility of incidental contact.
  • H2 - non-food grade lubricants used on equipment and machine parts where there is no possibility of contact
  • H3 - food grade lubricants which are edible oils used to prevent rust on hooks trolleys and similar equipment.


ISO standards

There are ISO standards that govern food safety. These are;

ISO 22000 – developed to certify food safety systems of companies in the food chain that process or manufacture animal products, products with long shelf life and other food ingredients such as additives, vitamins and biocultures2.

ISO 21469 – specifies the hygiene requirements for the formulation, manufacture and use of lubricants that may come into contact with products during manufacturing2.



  1. Quick Reference Guide to Categories, NSF USDA.
  2. International Regulations for Food Grade Lubricants. Richard Beercheck. Lubes N Greases Europe- Middle East-Africa. June 2014.
  3. Chemistry and the Technology of Lubricants Third Edition by Roy M. Mortier, Malcom F. Fox, Stefan T. Orszuilk (Editors), Chapter 8 Industrial Lubricants, C. Kajdas et al. Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg London New York. DOI 10.1023/b105569

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