Daily News All News  |  Subscribe  
Restaurant Articles

Food Safety Tips: Understanding NSF and UL

By Greg McGuire

August 4, 2009

You've probably seen the NSF and UL labels in your restaurant or commercial kitchen before. And you probably already have an idea what these organizations do and what that label means. But fully understanding what the NSF and UL do to make sure restaurant equipment and tools meet food and personal safety standards is worth your time, so here's a brief explanation:

NSF International (formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation) is an independent, non-profit organization that certifies food service equipment and ensures it is designed and constructed in a way that promotes food safety.NSF is internationally recognized and most food service equipment is NSF certified. What does that certification mean?

Equipment certified by the NSF must complete the following process:

The facility where the product is made is thoroughly audited by an NSF representative. This ensures the product is constructed in a sanitary manner and that the standards for sanitary design elements are actually met during construction and assembly.

A physical evaluation of the product is carried out to ensure it meets food safety standards.  Testing and evaluation is done on the materials used to make the product to make sure they meet standards. The facility and product must also undergo annual follow up audits to maintain certification.  NSF certified products have therefore passed a stringent set of evaluations to ensure food safety requirements and standards are met.

Some common food service equipment that is certified by the NSF include: commercial dishwashers, cooking, hot holding, and transport equipment, dispensing freezers, commercial refrigerators and storage freezers, automatic ice making equipment, and food and beverage dispensing equipment. Many restaurant and commercial kitchen utensils and cutlery also get NSF certification.

As a restaurateur, purchasing NSF certified equipment and small wares ensures that your business is promoting food safety. The power of NSF’s reputation means that most equipment you buy is already certified, but understanding what that certification means is important when you look to buy new equipment or during your next health inspection.

Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL)

Millions of products, from consumer electronics to commercial cooking equipment in your restaurant, carry the UL symbol. UL certification means the product and its components meet a set of safety and hazard standards that ensure the safety of the product’s users.

Over the last 100 years, UL has become the primary authority on product safety. The UL label on the equipment in your kitchen means it has met a set of standards that ensure your equipment operates in a safe manner. This includes electrical, design, and structural elements of restaurant equipment.

UL conducts ongoing analysis of products to make sure they continue to meet safety standards. And UL also has a sanitation certification for equipment that is important to food safety. Look for this label when dealing with such equipment:


As a restaurateur, it’s important to understand the stringent process certified products must go through to bear the NSF and UL labels. These products have gone the extra mile to ensure the food and personal safety of their equipment. Purchasing NSF and UL approved products shows you the manufacturer has taken the time to create a quality product, and that can lend you a little peace of mind.


Greg McGuire manages The Back Burner blog for eTundra.com, a restaurant equipment, supplies, and equipment parts website dedicated to the food service industry.

Copyright © 1996-2013 Foodservice.com ®. All Rights Reserved.