Everything in the food and beverage manufacturing industry must be tested and approved for safe use around the products we consume, even the lighting.

You must understand the food processing lighting requirements that are expected to be met.

The three most important concerns when it comes to food processing are to prevent:

Contamination of Food

Growth of Bacteria

Spoiling Food

Lighting used in food processing facilities must protect from:






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NSF Certification & Lighting

NSF International is a non-profit, independent, 3rd party certifier of products used in the food processing industry.

Its primary goal is to maintain high safety standards for facilities that manufacture and distributes human consumables.

Its strict measures and methods ensure that products are in compliance with the FDA and USDA.

Those products that are certified are allowed to display the NSF certification with their product. The NSF certification process is rigorous.

The product is evaluated and tested. The manufacturing plant is inspected. Once certified, the facility is subject to yearly inspections to ensure the NSF standards are maintained.


NSF rated lighting

IP Ratings

IP Ratings are comprised of two rating digits.

  • The first digit refers to a light’s protection against dust and other airborne particles.
  • The second digit refers to protection against liquids.

So, an IP00 rating provides no protection from solids or liquids. A rating of IP69 would provide the highest-rated protection against dust and water.

The scale goes from 0-6 for solids and 0 through 9 for liquids. For food processing, you’re going to want a higher IP Rating, likely 65 or greater.

For high-pressure washdown, you will want IP69. If you want to learn more about IP ratings, and what they mean, read this.

IP Rating

The Stringent Standards of the Food & Bev Industry

NSF International has set strict standards that are based on a location’s condition and the extent of contact with food procedures. For lighting, the standard we care about is NSF2, or NSF / ANSI Standard 2.

Food processing plants have the highest standards of sanitation protocols and cleanliness and undergo frequent and stringent inspections. Unsurprisingly the NSF has stringent compliance standards. They look at a facility’s condition and the degree of contact with food, direct or indirect contact.


The Foundation Classifies Equipment Used in Food Processing Environments into Three Zones:

Splash Zone

In this area, direct contact with food isn’t expected. Liquids used for cleaning can splash or spill on the fixture’s surfaces.

In splash zones, high-pressure hose wash-downs occur. Splash zones include damp or wet process areas.

These are areas that use hose wash-downs, and high-pressure purging or decontamination areas.

Food Zone

In this zone, there is direct contact with food. The food zone certification usually applies to equipment not related to lighting, like worktables and cutting boards.

So, although there are extremely strict requirements for equipment in these areas, none apply to lighting.

For more details on these, we recommend checking out the NSF’s website here.

Non-food Zone

In this zone, there isn’t any direct contact with food under normal working conditions.

Light fixtures are not exposed to washdowns. Lights need to be well protected against dirt, dust, and cleaning products.

Non-food zones include food storage areas, dry and damp process areas, and kitchens.

Since light fixtures never come into contact with food while being processed, the only 2 zones NSF regulates are Splash Zones and Non-Food Zones.

NSF International requires that beverage and food facilities use IP65 to IP69-rated light fixtures. The higher the rating, the better protected the light is from water.

IP69 allows for high-pressure, hot water washdowns, whereas IP65 rated is good for locations that get wet but are not dealing with high-pressure, high-heat jets of water.

Food Processing

Complying with Food Safety Standards

Now that you know about the requirements, it’s time to learn how to meet them.

The great thing about LED lighting is that it can comply with the strict requirements set by the USA Department of Agriculture and the FDA.

The FDA suggests the following light standards in food manufacturing facilities:

  • Areas where employees work with food equipment and safety is paramount: 54 foot candles.
  • Locations where packaged food is sold or provided for consumption: 22 foot candles.
  • 30 inches above the floor in dry storage areas and walk-in refrigeration areas: 12 foot candles.

Poultry, dairy, and meat processors that want to comply with USDA regulations for inspections have to comply with the following criteria:

  • Locations where dairy food items are produced, packaged, or cleaned: 30 foot candles.
  • Locations where utensils are packaged or manufactured: 30 foot candles.
  • Areas or spaces where product contamination is possible: 50 foot candles.
  • Food inspection areas and stations: 50 to 200 foot candles.

LED Technology is More than up to the Stringent Standards of the Food Industry

There are 3 things food processing lights must be able to do in order to meet the needs of a food processing facility:

  • Be easy to clean. This decreases the risk of contamination. It also lowers lighting maintenance costs and downtime with their long lifespans.
  • Be bright enough to enhance visibility for employees in the facility. The light should not cause blinding glare or cast shadows which may cause accidents.
  • Meet all the government and industry regulations relating to food quality and safety.

LED lights have unique properties that make them highly suitable for different operations in the food industry. They include:

  • Long operating life
  • High-Impact robust housings
  • Super bright high-quality light
  • Low heat emissions

By design, LEDs decrease damage caused by excess heat and degradation caused by the light source (like metal halide). This makes LEDs suitable for cold storage and freezer areas.

Recent research shows that LED Fixtures used in these facilities preserve the nutritional food value post-harvest. They help reduce fungal infections known to be created by non-LED light sources.

It’s well-known how little heat LEDs produce. They’re also not affected by cold temperatures. This makes them a great choice inside food processing areas and for food storage.

Thanks to their long-expected lifespan and durability, LEDs help companies reduce utility and maintenance costs. Companies can expect a quick ROI when switching out old HID and fluorescent lighting over to LED.

Bottle Processing Plant Scaled

Dwayne Kula

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About the Author

Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.

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