New developments in food-grade lubricants certification

On August 23, ALIA held a webinar on the Certification of Food-Grade Lubricants in which Ismael Martinez, manager of product certification at NSF, provided insight into the changing world of food-grade lubricants standards. Martinez oversees the Non-Food Compound Registration Program at NSF which includes the registration and certification of food grade lubricants. The event was moderated by Paul Nai, chair of the ALIA Technology and Information Subcommittee and regional business director of Lubrizol Southeast Asia Private Limited.

NSF is an independent, non-governmental public health and safety organisation based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. Established in 1944, NSF now has more than 53 offices and laboratories around the globe involved in product testing, certification and auditing. A separate consulting and training arm operates independently of the certification business.
NSF inherited the Non-Food Compounds Program from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1999. During the webinar, Martinez provided a comprehensive overview of the program and the intricacies of food-grade lubricants.   

Lubricants are categorised based on their potential contact with food products. H1 lubricants are approved for incidental contact with a finished food product. Food contact is not permitted in H2 lubricants, and H3 registration is for soluble oils. HX1, HX2 and HX3 categories relate to the ingredients incorporated in the formulations. 

Despite the popularity of the H1 standard, Martinez highlighted increasing demand for the more robust ISO 21469 certification. Formulary requirements are very similar to the H1 evaluation, however, the ISO certification comes with “additional checks and balances,” he says.

NSF does not complete product testing and auditing for H1, with the evaluation based on the formulation as it is supplied by the manufacturer. ISO 21469 includes comprehensive initial testing of products and annual surveillance. Annual audits of manufacturers are completed, unannounced. A key difference is in the product facility traceability and labelling requirements of ISO, such as the inclusion of product location details. 

ISO certification is a more involved process with turnaround times typically up to 90 days, compared to four to six weeks for H1 registration. Adherence to the internationally recognised ISO 9001 quality management system is also a prerequisite for ISO 21469.

During his presentation, Martinez discussed global standards and how they are shaping the future of food-grade lubricants. ISO 21469 offers expanded global reach and is increasingly required by some major global manufacturers. In Brazil, ISO 21469 is mandatory and there is also a growing demand in Europe, he says. 

 A new local certification program was launched in China in June 2022, which is placing additional requirements on lubricant manufacturers. The standard is based on ISO 21469 with extra local conditions.  We are in the middle of the changeover period between the old and new standard—with H1 and ISO products transitioning into the new lubricant program. The transition period ends on December 31, 2023.

China’s specification includes additional traceability requirements to attempt to minimise counterfeit products. A certification mark and traceability code are required on the label of the certified product. Regulators and end users can scan the traceability code to verify the products authenticity and check the certification letter. China is also looking to incorporate a blockchain system to crack down on counterfeits, says Martinez. 

The ALIA webinar underscored the significance of food-grade lubricants in the modern food processing industry. Ensuring the safety and quality of these products remains a top priority for regulators. 

If you missed the webinar, a replay is available to ALIA members in the member’s area of the ALIA website.

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