NSF Rated Lighting: Food Safety, the Law and Your LED Lighting Options

nsf-rated-lightingFood safety is about much more than passing the sniff test. From large meat and food processing operations to pet food companies to agricultural herbicide plants, if it’s consumed by people or animals, it needs to be handled in safe conditions.

While food and beverage customers know their side of the business, they’ll expect you to know yours. They’ll need your help to get an LED lighting upgrade that’s high quality and meets all necessary safety standards. That’s where NSF rated lighting comes in.

In this article, we’ll cover what NSF rated lighting is, the types of criteria a fixture must meet to be NSF rated, where these fixtures are needed, and how you can make sure to get the right ones for your client’s needs.

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What Is NSF Rated Lighting?

Food safety is so important that an entire alphabet soup of government agencies, industry standards and certifications are involved:

  • NSF International, originally the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), is a product testing, inspection, and certification organization. NSF ensures that products used in food and beverage handling areas comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, is a nonprofit that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products. ANSI works closely with NSF to develop and test food safety standards.
  • The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) created the Ingress Protection (IP) rating scale to measure how well products hold up against the environmental factors that can occur in industrial plants.

Unsurprisingly, with this many regulatory bodies involved, strict standards must be met for a facility to be deemed safe for food production – and these standards also include lighting.

An LED fixture that is NSF/ANSI 2 listed has met the rules of both NSF International and the American National Standards Institute for food safety environments. An LED fixture that is IP69K rated meets the highest degree of protection against objects/dust and liquid intruding into the enclosure of the fixture.

What Are the Requirements for NSF Rated Lighting?

To receive an NSF/ANSI 2 rating, LED fixtures must go through an application process that generally follows seven steps:

  1. Application and information submission
  2. Product evaluation
  3. Product testing in lab
  4. Manufacturing facility inspection, production confirmation and product sampling
  5. Test results review and acceptance
  6. Contract signed and products listed
  7. Annual plant inspection and retesting

As the fixture is evaluated and tested, the fixture must meet specific criteria for NSF certification in food and beverage facilities:

  • NSF-approved lighting products must deliver light output (footcandle) levels that are adequate for food preparation and food storage areas.
  • These products must be shatterproof to ensure that no broken glass splinters over food or other equipment.
  • Fixtures must be easily accessible, resistant to the intrusion of dust, water and other hazards, and designed for easy cleaning to minimize the breeding of bacteria or mold. A fixture that is IP69K rated meets these criteria. The 6 means it is dust tight (allowing no ingress of dust) and the 9 means it is protected against close-range high pressure, high temperature spray downs.

Which Locations Require NSF Rated Lighting?

Food safety covers the entire lifecycle from processing to storage to preparation. As such there are plenty of locations that require NSF rated lighting:

  • At one end is food processing. Think converting raw materials into eating- or cooking-ready ingredients. This is largely done by large manufacturers like meat processors, food processors or pet food operations.
  • There’s also food preparation which can be done in commercial kitchens of all sizes. These can include restaurants, bakeries or caterers, as well as cafeterias and commissaries.
  • It’s also important to note that NSF-rated lighting is required in food storage areas, not just prep and processing areas. This allows for easy identification and proper handling.

Within these locations, there can be work zones that require their own specifications. The FDA lists out three specific zones of light intensity that are required under the Food Code.

Requirement Location
At least 108 lux (10-foot candles) at a distance of 75 cm (30 inches) above the floor. Walk-in refrigeration units and dry food storage areas and in other areas and rooms during periods of cleaning;
At least 215 lux (20-foot candles) (1) At a surface where food is provided for consumer self-service such as buffets and salad bars or where fresh produce or packaged foods are sold or offered for consumption,
(2) inside equipment such as reach-in and under-counter refrigerators; and
(3) at a distance of 75 cm (30 inches) above the floor in areas used for handwashing, warewashing, and equipment and utensil storage, and in toilet rooms; and
At least 540 lux (50-foot candles) At a surface where a food employee is working with food or working with utensils or equipment such as knives, slicers, grinders, or saws where employee safety is a factor.

Having a clear understanding of the conditions and activities in each area of a facility will allow you to make the right NSF-rated LED light recommendations.

Starting with LED lights that come with an NSF/ANSI 2 and/or IP69K rating ensures you and the customer that the lights can withstand the conditions and deliver the illumination needed.

Litetronics NSF High Bay

Litetronics designed its NSF High Bay with had the needs of the nation’s food manufacturing/service industry in mind. With 130 lumens of LED illumination per watt, this fixture offers high visual acuity for areas where safety and visibility are paramount.


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This powerful, durable light fixture delivers outstanding efficiency, long life and low maintenance. Litetronics’ NSF High Bay is constructed using corrosion-resistant materials with a smooth outer shell without crevices where moisture and bacteria can accumulate and cause contamination issues.

In addition, the fixture is IP69K-rated, protecting against intrusion from dust, grease, smoke or high-pressure water jets.

For facilities involved in the manufacture, preparation, storage, and/or service of food, the use of Litetronics’ NSF-rated lighting fixture enables them to comply with federal regulations and prevent possible issues related to physical contamination, cleaning and sanitization.

NSF Rated Lighting: Meeting the Standards, Winning the Job

Failure of a food or beverage facility to meet any of these standards could lead to a violation, removal of the lights, or even a shutdown until the lighting is brought into compliance. As the lighting expert, the customer will appreciate that you know the ropes and can correctly advise them to keep them safe and on the right side of the law.

Go into your next project knowing the fixtures you recommend are fully NSF-tested and approved for usage in a demanding food processing, preparation or storage environment.

Josh SchroederBy: Josh Schroeder, Managing Member at Lumen Link, LLC

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