Everything in the food and beverage manufacturing industry has to be tested and approved for safe use around the products we consume, even the lighting. But understanding the different certifying bodies and certifications light fixtures can achieve is confusing. Below we've defined some of the public health organizations (both federal and private) responsible for regulating lighting as well as their specific certifications for these products.
- ANSI, or American National Standards Institute. is a non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel. Food safe technology providers, like lighting providers, rely on ANSI to build consumer trust in their products.
- ANSI accredits NSF International and NEMA (see both below) to ensure the accuracy of standards. So while ANSI doesn't itself regulate food products, it regulates the regulations and regulators!
- NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International describes themselves this way on their website: Founded in 1944, our mission is to protect and improve global human health. Manufacturers, regulators, and consumers look to us to facilitate the development of public health standards and certifications that help protect food, water, consumer products, and the environment. As an independent, accredited organization, we test, audit, and certify products and systems as well as provide education and risk management. The NSF accreditation is what health departments are looking for on your lighting, and the NSF follows all USDA and FDA food safety standards even though it's a private, independent non-profit organization.
- NEMA, or National Electrical Manufacturers Association, like NSF, is an ANSI-accredited certifying organization for electrical, manufacturing, and medical equipment. NEMA is relevant in the food and beverage manufacturing industry because of its pervasive enclosure ratings, which are used to protect equipment from outside damage due to dust, liquids, etc. NEMA standards aren't required of lighting but are used as an industry guide, best practice, and marketing tactic. NEMA, unlike NSF, does not do independent testing and leaves compliance to the manufacturer.
- The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical and electronic technologies globally. It's similar to ANSI on an international scale. The IEC is important for food processing because of their internationally recognized IP (Ingress Protection or International Protection) Ratings, which basically let consumers of all kinds know how well their lighting will hold up against external elements. IP Ratings are similar to NEMA enclosure ratings, and some NEMA ratings have IP equivalents, but IP Ratings, as mentioned, are recognized worldwide instead of just nationally.
NSF Rated Lighting
Getting lighting NSF certified is rigorous. Products are evaluated and tested annually so they continuously meet strict standards and are safe insofar as their materials, fabrication, design, and performance are concerned. These NSF ratings are probably the most relevant for your food processing facility lighting.
The NSF labels are as follows, the first two of which are relevant for lighting:
- Non-Food Zone
- These fixtures are located outside of areas with direct food contact, as the name implies, and also outside of areas that are routinely cleaned, known as washdown areas. You might see this rating in kitchens or food storage areas.
- Splash Zone
- Again, these fixtures are not subjected to direct food contact, but they are in an area typically washed down, splashed with water or other liquids, or otherwise soiled. So any space that is hosed down or sanitized would need splash zone lighting.
- Food Zone
- This is the most rigorous label. It's reserved for products both in direct contact with food and with liquids. It's almost never actually used for food lighting, so we're really concerned with the first two above, as mentioned.
NEMA Enclosure Ratings
There are more than 12 enclosure ratings for lighting as defined by NEMA. This chart from NEMA does the best job describing the differing protection levels.
IP Ratings are comprised of two digits. The first digit refers to a light's protection against solids, like dust and particles, the second refers to liquids. So, a 00 rating provides no protection from solids or liquids, a rating of 64 would protect against all dust and water splashing, etc. Lower IP Ratings are for indoor, less hazardous use. The scale goes from 0-6 for both solids and liquids, and you will always see that two digit rating. For food processing, you're going to want a high IP Rating, likely 65 or greater.
Select Federal Agencies Involved with Food Safety
Aside from private organizations that certify food safe products, like lighting, the federal government is involved in all aspects of keeping our food free from harm. The agencies below may have input on the agencies above, which, in turn, affects the products you can and should select for your facilities. Consequently, it's a good idea to stay informed on their latest news and guidance.
- FDA- Food and Drug Administration
- USDA- United States Department of Agriculture
- EPA- Environmental Protection Agency
- FSIS- Food Safety and Inspection Service (an entity of the USDA)
- CDC- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Light Level Regulation
The FDA actually regulates light levels, among other things, in the food and beverage manufacturing industry through their Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). They also regulate bulb breakage and other lighting-centric safety practices. You can find a checklist to assess your facility here. This piece provides a good chart for recommended foot candles to reach adequate light levels as defined by GMP. If you need a background knowledge on foot candles, read our explainer post here.
Interested in more of our blog content for the food and beverage manufacturing industry? You may like these posts:
- Why Choose LED Lighting for Your Food Processing Plant?
- UV Light for Food Irradiation and Employee Illness Protection
- Food Processing Lighting - LED Options Explained