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Metal Detection, X-ray Inspection or Both? | Download Guide

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Guide to Metal Detection Technology In the Food and Pharmaceutical Industries



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Guide| 6 Steps to Preventing Physical Contamination in Food

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Guide to X-ray Inspection Technology In the Food and Pharmaceutical Industries

Guide to X-ray Inspection Technology

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What are the main sources of physical contamination?

Physical contamination, also known as 'foreign material contamination', 'foreign body contamination', or 'foreign object contamination', can come from any number of sources at the beginning of, during, and after production. For example:

  • Broken or malfunctioning production equipment leading to broken pieces of metal, wire, glass, or rubber falling into the product
  • Improper storage or handling of ingredients and final products
  • Poor site quality control practices or poorly maintained facilities
  • Accidental introduction during processing, such as employee personal effects falling into areas of production
  • Raw incoming ingredients already contaminated when entering the production facility

Because there is a risk of foreign material contamination at any stage in production, it's important for manufacturers to have a risk assessment done to pinpoint the area or areas that would most benefit from an x-ray inspection or metal detection system (or both!).

What are some examples of physical contamination?

One common example of physical contamination of products is when small plastic or metal pieces break off of production equipment and fall into the product. As equipment parts wear down, the risk of metal or plastic debris finding its way into the product increases dramatically. If it's not caught, the contaminated product may enter the marketplace and can trigger a recall.

To avoid this scenario occurring and damaging their brand reputation, manufacturers should perform regular equipment maintenance and invest in metal detection or x-ray inspection equipment for foreign body contamination detection.

Physical contamination can also come from other objects, organic and inorganic, such as:

  • Organic contaminants like bone, hair, nail clippings or dirt that arrived on unwashed fruits and vegetables
  • Inorganic contaminants like metal, plastic, glass, and other synthetic objects

When it comes to detection of foreign object contaminants other than metal, x-ray inspection is used - but it must be noted that lower density contaminants such as hair are not always possible for even x-ray inspection to detect.

How are products with physical contamination safely removed from the production line?

Remove physical contamination from production line

Metal detection systems and x-ray inspection systems have a variety of automatic rejection mechanisms that reliably remove physically contaminated products from the production line. The rejected products are sorted in a variety of ways, which will depend on the product being inspected. For unpackaged bulk, liquid or slurry product, the flow may be diverted to a separate bag or disposal unit to keep it out of the final product line. Products being inspected on a conveyor may have the rejected products sorted into a secure and locked bin that is only accessible by trained personnel – to be re-worked, re-inspected, or disposed of.

METTLER TOLEDO Safeline is a manufacturer of metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems with a range of due diligence features to support the safe rejection of physically contaminated or otherwise unsatisfactory products.

How do I catch foreign material contamination early in food production?

The best early defense against foreign material contamination is by having standards in place to keep a clean and well-maintained production environment. All equipment should be receiving regular preventative maintenance to keep it in good condition. There should also be a regular cleaning routine for production equipment to prevent the possibility of cross-contamination or bacterial growth.

Using product inspection equipment such as metal detection or x-ray inspection (or both!) is also key to keeping the risk of foreign body contamination as low as possible – anything can happen to cause a problem with contamination during the production stages, and it’s not always visible when it does. Investing in systems designed to automatically notify and reject physically contaminated products can save manufacturers from a big headache later.

Early contamination detection food production

How do I detect metal splinters coming from food production equipment?

Detect metal fragments in food production

The most effective way to detect food with metal contamination, such as metal splinters, is to run the product through an industrial metal detection system at a point after the location of possible contamination.

Installing a metal detection system to detect metal fragments in food production allows every product to be inspected for the presence of metal contamination. If metal is present, that product can then be removed from the production line. Depending on the composition of the product, the metal detector head will need to be capable of working with different sensitivities in order to effectively and accurately detect metal contamination.

How can I prevent chicken bones in poultry production?

It's never a pleasant experience for customers to find bones in their boneless chicken. X-ray inspection systems can detect bone, cartilage, and other foreign material contaminants in poultry products. Using x-ray for chicken bone detection is one way to help keep your poultry products safe, high quality, and free of contaminants such as bones. 

METTLER TOLEDO Safeline is a manufacturer of x-ray inspection systems - including dual energy x-ray inspection - used throughout the meat and poultry industry for physical contamination detection and other product quality checks.

X-ray chicken bone detection

How can physical contamination detection help food manufacturers comply with GFSI standards?

Physical contamination detection technologies, such as metal detection and x-ray inspection, are used by manufacturers to protect the safety and quality of their products, and to help meet global compliance requirements of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. These product inspection systems are integrated into the food production process to identify and remove any foreign materials, including metal fragments, stones, and glass, that may have inadvertently entered into the product flow.

By incorporating metal detection and x-ray inspection into an overall quality inspection and food safety plan, food manufacturers can reduce the risk of product recalls, protect their brand reputation, and work to comply with the requirements of GFSI-approved food safety standards such as BRCGS, IFS, FSSC 22000, SQF and others. Using metal detection systems, x-ray inspection systems, or both can also make it easier to comply with major retailer codes of practice.

It's important to note that simply installing contamination detection technologies is not enough to comply with GFSI requirements. Manufacturers must also work to implement appropriate safety procedures and training programs to ensure that the systems are being used correctly and effectively. Additionally, companies must maintain records of their contamination detection efforts to demonstrate compliance with GFSI standards. Some manufacturers offer integrated software solutions which can automate the process of recording and storing this data to provide the required evidence to pass food safety audits.