Go Green and Clean with LED for Food and Beverage Lighting

Go Green and Clean with LED for Food and Beverage Lighting

Cleanliness, as the saying goes, is next to godliness, but in the food and beverage industry it is also tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the United States. There are similar regulatory agencies in other parts of the globe.

To help maintain sanitary conditions, all equipment and appliances used in food and beverage production and packaging — including lighting products — must meet stringent manufacturing standards set by NSF International (NSF). It can be difficult to navigate the NSF certification process, but we will offer guidance in this article and explain how industrial light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is especially well suited to such applications.

Indeed, food and beverage facilities have some of the strictest compliance standards of any industry in order to safeguard public health and worker safety. Like many applications, the food and beverage niche has been attracted to solid-state lighting (SSL) technology for energy efficiency and long LED lifetimes. Today’s SSL products, however, offer robust, eco-friendly solutions to all of the demanding regulatory requirements, making LEDs an ideal choice for NSF-certified lighting.

Location, location, location

Food and beverage plants are specialized industrial facilities that employ many of the same types of lighting fixtures found in ordinary industrial settings, except that certain fixtures must perform under sanitary and sometimes hazardous conditions. The kind of lighting products required and the compliance standards that apply depend on the environment encountered within a particular area. Food-processing facilities usually contain a variety of environments under one roof.

A plant might include locations for processing, warehousing, staging, distribution, cold or dry storage, clean rooms, offices, hallways, lobbies, restrooms and more — each of which has its own set of lighting requirements. Lighting for food-processing areas, for example, often must tolerate airborne oils, mists, dust, grime, steam, water, effluents and other contaminants while also enduring frequent wash-downs with high-pressure water jets and harsh cleaning solvents.

NSF has defined standards based on area conditions and on the extent of direct contact with food products. The NSF standard that relates to food and beverage lighting products, referred to as NSF/ANSI Standard 2 (or just NSF 2), organizes plant environments into three zonal categories: Non-Food Zone, Splash Zone and Food Zone.

Each zone reflects environments ranging from areas such as food storage, where there is no direct contact with food products and no high-pressure wash-downs; wet-processing areas that require high-pressure wash-downs but where there is no direct contact with food; and areas where the product comes into direct contact with food.

NSF and food

Since lighting products do not come into direct contact with food, only the NSF guidelines for Non-Food Zone and Splash Zone usually apply. LED lighting manufacturers seeking NSF-2 certification for their products must ensure that a product’s physical design, the materials used and the manufacturing processes employed all comply with NSF standards according to the relevant zone.

The ceilings in various areas of food-processing plants also can present unique challenges for industrial LED lighting. In addition to frequent wash-downs, these ceilings sometimes must support piping and other plant equipment, as well as the weight of maintenance personnel, which can complicate luminaire placement and mounting. Moreover, cold-storage rooms and blast freezers feature low, thick ceilings, which function as thermal barriers but can affect the structural integrity of ceiling mounts. Lower ceilings also require luminaires with wider beam angles for proper vertical-horizontal illumination.

Proper lighting for food processing

As with most lighting applications, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) has created recommended illumination levels for various food-processing tasks. For example, IESNA’s suggested illumination for food inspection areas ranges from 30 to 1,000 foot-candles (fc). Areas for color grading should be lit at 150 fc, while warehousing, staging, packing and restrooms need 30 fc.

However, since food safety also relies on good lighting, the USDA mandates sufficient lighting levels in Section 416.2(c) of its Food Safety and Inspection Service Manual, which requires the following: “Lighting of good quality and sufficient intensity to ensure that sanitary conditions are maintained and that product is not adulterated must be provided in areas where food is processed, handled, stored, or examined; where equipment and utensils are cleaned; and in hand-washing areas, dressing and locker rooms, and toilets.”


Good color rendition is also vital for accurate inspection and color grading of food products, especially meats. The USDA’s preferred color rendering index (CRI) for general food-processing areas is 70, but food inspection areas require a CRI of 85.

In addition, both the FDA and USDA have established photometric specifications for vertical illumination distributions. The illumination of vertical surfaces should measure 25% to 50% of the horizontal illumination and be free of shadows that might compromise workplace safety in critical plant areas.

Advantages of LED-based food and beverage lighting

When it comes to the food and beverage industry, suitably designed LEDs have many advantages over most legacy lighting technologies, such as no glass or other breakable materials that could contaminate food products, as well as improved light output and efficiency at the low temperatures of cold storage. Add the benefits of low maintenance, longer life (70,000 hours), no toxic mercury, higher efficacies, wide-ranging dimmability and control, instant-on performance and a broad range of operating temperatures and one can begin to appreciate the versatility of LEDs in one of the most demanding industries.

The advent of cooler-running, high-efficacy SSL makes possible the sleek, lightweight, sealed lighting fixtures and bright, high-quality illumination needed for many food-industry applications. With ultralong life and low maintenance, LEDs can help transform the food and beverage industry into a clean, green machine.

As is true with many plants and processing sites, the scale of the facility presents certain inherent operational costs. LED lighting, in addition to saving money because it uses less energy to operate at the same or better level than other units, pairs well with lighting controls and occupancy sensors. To learn more about how these solutions could help reduce operation costs, download the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) eBook, “Guide to Lighting Controls and Occupancy Sensors.”

This article was originally published on: LED Magazine and has been modified.