Is Black Graphite Lubricant Safe to use on a Bakery Oven Chain?

The choice to use a black natural graphite on bakery and other oven chain applications is typically supported by antiquated schools of thought.  Just about all Maintenance, Engineering, Quality Assurance, and Plant Management personnel know that black graphite lubricant is a hazardous product and should not be used in any food processing facilities.  So why are so many food corporations knowingly using black graphite lubricant?

In the industrial baking segment, producers are exposed to regulatory and safety audits more than ever before.  There are several bodies that issue standards designed to implement best practices in food manufacturing industries.  These bodies include, but are not limited to, The British Retail Consortium (BRC), The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22000 Food Safety Management, and American Institute of Baking (AIB) audits and inspection.  
But wait, there is more; AIB, GMP, HACCP, OSHA, ISO, BRC, SQF..... "STOP THE INSANITY"....OMG, WTF this is TMI.   Well, not really, there may be many bodies enforcing standards and safe practices, but for the most part, when comes to safe handling of lubricating fluids, they tend to agree.

Upgrade to Food Grade Graphite Lubricant - CG-FSG-220-H1 STOP Using Black Graphite Lubricant on Your Bakery Oven Chain!!!

Very often industrial bakeries are choosing to plead ignorance when it comes to safety relating to lubricating fluids.                
  • Are you still using a black "Graphite" lubricant in your food processing facility? 
  • Are you hiding your lubricating products during food safety audits?
  • Are you aware that black graphite lubricant is harmful and some consider graphite to be a known carcinogen?
  • Do you know that graphite is flammable?
If the answer is yes, then, why are you using such a dangerous product??

The choice to use a black natural graphite is typically based on its lower cost than food grade lubricant counterparts, or it is a "way it has always been done" mentality, or a recommendation from an equipment OEM.  There is no question that graphite is a good dry powder film lubricant that has a molecular structure of loosely layered sheets that provide excellent slippery lubricating properties.  But in a world with safety audits, good and cheap is not a substitute replacement for safe and food grade!

In most cases, for bakery oven applications, liquid graphite is applied manually to the chain with a kerosene (or other hydrocarbon) based carrier fluid.  Whereas this is an extremely flammable combustible liquid, with a lower flashpoint, typically below 160?°F, black graphite lubricant is generally applied manually to a cold oven.  Any Maintenance or Sanitation Manager will say that graphite is messy to work with and when dry can create a graphite powder or dust that somehow seems impossible to clean.  In in an oven with tremendous amounts of air movement through positive combustion air, negative exhaust air, and circulating air fans (AKA coloraiders) it goes without question that black natural graphite can end up on the bread (or other baked goods) traveling through the oven.  Ultimately, remember that graphite lubricant is a known carcinogen that through exposure can lead to respiratory illnesses.

We ALL know its NOT safe and NOT food grade!

Is black graphite oven chain oil food grade?  Very simply NO!  There is a misinterpretation that graphite and other industrial grade lubricants can be used in food facilities on process equipment that is not in direct contact with areas that food travel, such as gear boxes on ovens, chains driving cooling conveyors, hydraulics on bowl lifters, proofer chains, etc.  The thought that the lubricant can not find its way to food areas is false.  This logic is wrong and Maintenance, Engineering, Sanitation, Quality Assurance, and Plant Management all need to work to shift away from this old way of thinking.  There is always a potential for contamination and Health and Safety committees must worker harder to educate food facility personnel that industrial lubricants should not be brought into the environment. This eliminates all possibility of contamination and assures that lubricants stored at site are all food grade.   

How do you know a lubricant is food grade?

If a lubricant is food grade it will meet standards set forth by the NSF H1 registration program.  An NSF H1 designation is derived on the standards of the former USDA lubricant authorization program that covered a toxicological assessment and ensure that ingredients used in the lubricant manufacturing process were suitable to FDA 21CFR 178.3570 criteria; including label verification which today must meet the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.  To verify if the lubricant you are using is food grade, you can search the NSF White Book - Nonfood Compounds Listing Directory  If the product you are using is not listed in the NSF White Book, it is most likely an industrial grade lubricant and not food grade.

Lubricant blenders are pushing the envelope is research and development.  Today, food grade synthetic lubricants perform in the most demanding applications.  Manufacturers are developing synthetic oils fortified with anti-wear additives and oxidants inhibitors that optimize the performance and stability of the lubricants.  These premium lubricants are designed for use in environments where excellent high temperature thermal stability and reduced sludge and deposit formulation on chains is required. 

The next time you look into your lubricant cabinet, think twice about the dangers caused by exposure to graphite lubricant.  Food grade synthetic alternatives are available.  Your co-workers and clients deserve to be safe!

Chain Guard Food Grade Synthetic Lubricant VS Natural Black Boron Nitride Graphite

  Chain Guard Synthetic Oven Chain Lubricant Natural Graphite Black Oven Chain Lubricant
Food Grade NSF H1 Registered YES NO
BRC Accepted YES NO
Applied Automatically During Operation YES NO
(must stop production and apply to chain manually)
Applied to Hot or Cold Chain YES NO
Hazardous NO YES
(Hazardous Ship Classification)
Fire Hazard and Combustible NO  YES
Mixing Required NO Mixing Required  Always in Suspension YES 
Graphite Sediments Separate Carrier & Require Constant Manual Mixing
Clean Application YES NO
Splatter During Operation NO YES
Maintenance & Cleaning Minimal Constant Chain Cleaning Required
Sludge Build Up NO Build Up YES
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