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Electroless nickel plating for food equipment

My company is currently investigating the possibility of using electroless nickel plating on a piece of equipment directly in contact with food products. My question is related the acceptance of electroless nickel plating versus aluminum for parts directly in contact with food. I know it is used for a lot of food equipment. Provided it meets the NSF requirement to be lead free, is it generally accepted in the food industry?

Sharon Nowak
Product Engineer - Long Branch , NJ

In the past, cadmium and mercury have been used for brighteners as well a lead, so it would depend on the brightener that is used. Now mid you, that amount is infitessimally small in the plating, but regulators get paranoid.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

I would only add that several, if not most, of the suppliers of electroless nickel now have cad-free lead-free formulations for compliance with RoHS requirements. I think that is what ought to be specified, whether it is a NSF requirement or not.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


When one says that EN is cadmium-free and lead-free, does it mean that it is absolutely free of these or only that it is cad-free and lead-free in the sense that it is RoHS compliant (which of course means it has the permissible limit)?In the beginning I naively assumed that cad-free and lead-free meant absolutely free of these but as I read more and more letters I understood that cad-free and lead-free can also be used in RoHS sense.

Sonali Kokane
- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Sorry, I don't know the answer to that, Sonali; you would need to get a commitment from a particular supplier, and there is no such thing as zero anyway. But I think an important point is that the lead and cadmium are not there by accident as some sort of contamination, rather they are deliberately used as part of the formulation because they are essential to regulation of the plating process. The new cad-free and lead-free processes use different chemistry to regulate the deposition.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Yes the lead free/ cad free baths meet the spec of PB <100ppm and cad <1000ppm If my memory serves me right.

They have changed the brighteners in this style of bath to bismuth believe it or not. very close to lead in style of chemical, BUT not regulated YET..

Better brightener in many peoples opinion. Why they never caught onto this in the 70's.. Your guess is as good as mine.

Ryan Cook
Ryan Cook
Toccoa, Georgia

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