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Lubricants: NSF certification offers food safety

May 23, 2024 , Dr. André Rosehr


Lubricants and process oils are a basic prerequisite for long-lasting and smoothly operating machinery. High quality requirements are placed on these products if they could potentially come into contact with beverages, food and animal feed. NSF certification focuses precisely on this case and certifies products such as lubricants for safe use. In the following article, you can find out more about the NSF certification content, the different NSF categories and what advantages certified products offer. 


NSF certification guarantees food safety

Manufacturers of beverages, food and animal feed, as well as suppliers to the food industry, food packaging manufacturers, but also industrial kitchens, restaurants or catering businesses have machines, systems or equipment that rely on lubricants or process oils. Their indirect contact with food cannot be completely excluded in every case. Lubricants and process oils with special certification that guarantee food safety are required. This safety is also of great interest in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. 


How does NSF certification work?

The Institution National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) has existed since the mid-1940s with the objective of carrying out tests to protect food, drawing up standards and guidelines and certifying products.

The NSF tests products for authorised ingredients in connection with food. A detailed testing and approval process is used to determine which lubricants or ingredients are suitable for use with food. 

Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 → Regulation - 1935/2004 - EN - EUR-Lex ( of the European Union forms the legal framework for all materials that come into contact with food. The ‘Code of Federal Regulations’, the federal code of the USA, contains a list of approved lubricants that may come into contact with food and the respective approved limit values.


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H1 - H2 - 3H - H3 - these NSF certifications are available

Lubricants for the food industry are divided into the following categories:

  • Category H1 lubricants
    Used in production if contact with food cannot technically be completely avoided. This includes systems in which contact between the lubricant and food can not be excluded completely. The lubricants must be compatible with food, tasteless, odourless and safe for health.

  • Category H2 lubricants
    Used when contact between lubricants and food is excluded. Nevertheless, they must be free of toxic components. As a rule, normal industrial lubricants may be used here.

  • Category 3H lubricants
    These are explicitly authorised for direct contact with food. They are used when direct and continuous contact between the lubricant and the food product is unavoidable

  • Category H3 lubricants
    They are often used as corrosion protection and are used, for example, when lubricating equipment such as tools, knives, meat hooks or conveyor belts, e.g. for knives and hooks. They must be removed before use. As with H2, the possibility of contamination with foodstuffs must be completely ruled out. 


What are the advantages of NSF certification?

NSF certification is a crucial building block in food and beverage production, but also in many other operations where food and machinery could come into contact. The basis for this are the regulations of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EU Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004.

Benfits of NSF certification: 

  • The only international registration that guarantees that lubricants are safe to use
  • Building confidence in a safe food industry
  • High level of safety for use in the food processing industry
  • Strengthening consumer protection


Which characteristics must NSF certified lubricants and process oils have?

Oils in NSF category H1 not only have to fulfil high standards in terms of food compatibility and health safety, but also other requirements in this context. For example, they should be tasteless and odourless and suitable for accidental, technically unavoidable contact with food.

Furthermore, the special conditions in food production give rise to additional requirements. High or very low operating temperatures, such as in bakeries or  when processing chilled foods, or even fluctuating humidity levels require oils that remain stable during use



Food safety should be the top priority for food and beverage manufacturers. It is important that manufacturers adhere to high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. The use of lubricants in food technology therefore requires tested, registered and certified products. NSF certification is based on FDA and EU regulations. In order to ensure food safety and thus protect consumers, the food processing industry relies on NSF certified products.


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Topics: Middle Distillates

Dr. André Rosehr

Dr. André Rosehr

Dr. André Rosehr is the linking interface between customers, sales and production in his role as Manager Technical Services & Development. He is the technical contact for Performance Solvents, Middle Distillates and Renewable Products. His focus is on new product development, evaluation of new feedstocks and accommodating the transformation to renewable and sustainable hydrocarbon products at Haltermann Carless. T: +49 40 333 18 166 email:


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