How can Oil Analysis Benefit the Food and Beverage Industry?

Why On-Site Oil Analysis?

Manufacturers of food and beverages are searching for solutions which decrease the cost of manufacturing but maintain regulatory compliance. They also strive to reduce process variability and optimize productivity.

Big Picture

The vast majority of all food and beverage industries must have some form of a voluntary plan for controlling the process. This voluntary plan is known as their "hazard analysis and critical control points" plan, also known as HACCP, which consists of six major components.

These components are as follows:

  • Traceability and recalls
  • Sanitary standard operating procedures (SSOP)
  • Good manufacturing practices
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Product identification
  • Education and training

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 enforces these plans in the US, even though the plans are voluntary. A number of other countries are following suite, and now companies that violate the terms are subject to enforcement penalties.

A major factor in food and beverage companies is disruption avoidance. Maintaining up time is vital, as they must to keep the production going. With production being the most critical component, contamination control is second.

Contamination Control

For food and beverage companies, contamination control is one of the biggest concerns. The reason for this is not only possible fines/penalties, but also product quality. Contaminating the product with oil from the machines can result in hazardous contamination. Bearing this in mind, there are three levels to classify the amount of contamination in the product.

These classifications each having their own criteria and range from H1 to H3. H1 refers to the type of products which are certified by the national sanitary foundation ( H1 is the most vital fluid, where oil is placed in the piece of equipment where incidental food contact may occur.

Incidental contact means up to about 10 ppm of the oil can get inside the food system. They must make sure there are no additives or contaminants present that could be carcinogenic or harmful to humans. H2 mainly applies to general lubricants, where absolutely zero contact between food and oil occur.

H3 is total food contact where edible oils are applied directly to the food. Oils are specifically formulated as a result of this, and then sent out for approval to meet the required standards. Meeting the ISO 21469 regulations is an additional requirement for food lubricant suppliers.

ISO 21469 is a voluntary international standard, it covers the lubricant, and also everything associated with packaging, shipping, and storage of the lubricant at the customer's location.

Food and Beverage Issues

The equipment that is frequently employed in these processing facilities is usually of much lower value than what we may observe in other industries on a per-component basis. So it is a very low cost to replace the actual equipment if required.

Volumes are small (not as much volume as you would see in power generation or mining); yet, additional cost is incurred as food-grade lubricants are priced at a premium. What is interesting is the cost of downtime is extremely high, so even though you have a very small, inexpensive, conveyor belt bearing or gearbox the cost of downtime is a concern when that small component fails.

If there are contamination issues then the product quality risk is also high. It poses a risk anytime contamination gets into the system due to the oil. The extra sanitary operating procedures required, such as pressure wash downs on a regular basis, are another issue. Since water can slip by into the seals, that can affect oil contamination. Regular monitoring is needed as a result of this.

Typical Equipment and Tests

The typical types of equipment are gears, grease systems, hydraulic systems, chiller systems, and compressors. These are the most usual types of rotating equipment in these facilities. In the case of hydraulic systems, a lot of different applications are utilized, such as packers, bottle washers, and press fit packaging systems.

In these cases, the key tests are particle count, ferrous particle count, water content, metals, additives, viscosity, and tan and oxidation. This is because it is crucial to ensure that the correct oil is present in the equipment.

If there are food grade oils and an incorrect oil gets placed there, it is a high risk to the process in the form of contamination. Wear is also concerning because if there is any wear present, it is crucial to know when actually to schedule that systems replacement..

For gear systems, the usual equipment is distillation vats for alcohol production, conveyor belt drives found in breweries, mixers used in food applications, and cutting tables in meat packing plants. The tests to use are water content, metals, ferrous density, oxidation, viscosity, and additives.

As the ferrous takes over in those areas, particle counting is not vital because a number of these are extremely high viscosity oils. A real concern is seal integrity, particularly on items such as cutting tables where you have wash downs frequently.

Wear is a concern as the worry is that wear can cause dimensional tolerance losses, which can result in some looseness. If the blades are not going to the correct place, or metal shards are going into the product, that is a massive issue.

About 80% of the plants often operate with grease on bearings, slide systems, and conveyor belt drives. The relevant tests are oxidation, water content, ferrous density, and additives. Those show whether something is a food grade product. In those cases, the concern is wear and wash down effects.

Compressors and chillers are the fourth utility in nearly all of these sites, and are employed for both cooling and air. The usual tests for these are ferrous density, water content, viscosity, acid number, metals, and TBN (if it's an ammonia chiller). A major consideration is the high value equipment at these sites. Any interruption of service in this department can lead to a huge production loss.


The MiniLab series is the perfect solution for all of these equipment types and the recommended tests associated with them. There are numerous models of the MiniLab that can be mixed and matched to meet the requirements of the individual plant. All models of the MiniLab can test TBN, water content, oxidation, and viscosity. The higher tier models can run the more advanced tests like ferrous density and particle count.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by AMETEK Spectro Scientific.

For more information on this source, please visit AMETEK Spectro Scientific.


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