Class Zero technology eliminates oil contaminates in food processing

In the food processing industry, the last thing a manufacturer needs is a product recall due to contamination. The cost of the spoiled product is really the smallest cost in a series of problems for the manufacturer. There will need to be process inspections by the Food and Drug Administration to identify the source of the contamination, repairs to the equipment and the loss of productivity.


In the food processing industry, the last thing a manufacturer needs is a product recall due to contamination. The cost of the spoiled product is really the smallest cost in a series of problems for the manufacturer. There will need to be process inspections by the Food and Drug Administration to identify the source of the contamination, repairs to the equipment and the loss of productivity.

That’s just the cost for the processing plant itself. The damage to the company’s reputation is sometimes incalculable. As a result, process manufacturers, their suppliers and federal agencies are always looking for the tightest safeguards to maintain the balance between safety and productivity.

In the area of oil contamination, two trends have emerged. One is the use of food-grade lubricants in the manufacturing process. The use of such food-grade lubricants is well-documented. PLANT ENGINEERING magazine included food-grade lubricants in its Guide to Synthetic Lubrication in 2006. That guide is still available today at and is seen as a valuable guide to the available food-grade synthetic lubricants available for process manufacturers. The guide is easily downloadable in PDF format, giving readers a comprehensive list of synthetic lubrication suppliers by type of oil, its ISO viscosity grade and its availability in food grade. These FDA-approved lubricants are nontoxic to humans and provide another layer of protection against processing plant contamination.

And such contamination was seen as inevitable. In a January 2004 story in Machinery Lubrication magazine called “Food-grade Lubricants Reduce Contamination Threats for Food and Beverage Manufacturers”. Debbie Hodson of Shell Cassida explained the basic problem: “Minor lubricant leaks in machinery are common, sometimes unavoidable, and not always obvious. Just the normal wear and tear on seals can cause a gearbox or hydraulic system to leak, releasing minute levels of oil that can come into contact with food. Contamination can also come from drips from chains or a release of compressed air that contains an oily mist.

“Good engineering and operational practices can minimize, but not eliminate, these threats,” Hodson wrote. “So any food or beverage manufacturer that is not using food-grade lubricants is operating under an unnecessary risk. Some have switched to the exclusive use of food-grade lubricants simply to reduce human error.”

The air compressor industry took the challenge, and has been striving to meet international testing requirements to eliminate any oil contamination in the process industries %%MDASSML%% not just food, but petrochemical, semiconductor and pharmaceutical manufacturing as well.

Meeting the 8573-1 CLASS 0 (2001) certificate from the Cologne, Germany-based TechnischeÜberwachungsVerein (Technical Monitoring Association). TUV is an independent monitoring company that evaluates technology for safety and quality.

The testing of a new technology in oil-free compressors has earned Atlas Copco the world’s first Class Zero rating for compressors from TUV. It’s a technological breakthrough that eliminates one of the variables that can affect contamination in the processing industries.

The TUV testing to achieve the Class Zero rating takes two forms. One part covers the release of aerosol and liquid contamination, while another part measures only vapors released. Both parts are necessary to obtain ISO 8573-1 CLASS 0 (2001) certification. All three sources of oil contamination %%MDASSML%% aerosol, vapor and liquid %%MDASSML%% have to be captured in order for the Class Zero certification to be achieved. The TÜV found no traces of oil in the output air stream under any of the test conditions from the Atlas Copco oil-free compressors.

“Securing this certification helped us give peace of mind to customers that they would have solutions with zero risk of oil contamination,” said Ronnie Leten, President of Atlas Copco’s business area Compressor Technique.

For a complete look at the topic of Class Zero certification and its impact on the process food manufacturing industry, register today for PLANT ENGINEERING's Webcast, Class Zero in Air Compressors, on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. CDT. To register, go to and click on 'Upcoming Webcasts’ to register for this event.

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