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Food-Grade Categories and Definitions
Food-grade lubricants are lubricants acceptable for use in meat, poultry and other food processing equipment, applications and plants. The lubricant types in food-grade applications are broken into categories based on the likelihood they will contact food. The USDA created the original food-grade designations H1, H2 and H3, which is the current terminology used. The approval and registration of a new lubricant into one of these categories depends on the ingredients used in the formulation. The three designations are described as follows:3
H1 lubricants are food-grade lubricants used in food processing environments where there is some possibility of incidental food contact. Lubricant formulations may only be composed of one or more approved basestocks, additives and thickeners (if grease) listed in 21 CFR 178.3750.
H2 lubricants are lubricants used on equipment and machine parts in locations where there is no possibility that the lubricant or lubricated surface contacts food. Because there is not the risk of contacting food, H2 lubricants do not have a defined list of acceptable ingredients. They cannot, however, contain intentionally heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury or selenium. Also, the ingredients must not include substances that are carcinogens, mutagens, teratogens or mineral acids.4
H3 lubricants, also known as soluble or edible oil, are used to clean and prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and similar equipment.