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Foreign Material Control in Food Manufacturing
Monday, Aug 20th, 2018
Physical contaminants in food processing and manufacturing plants can pose serious health hazards to consumers. Common physical contaminants include metal, stainless steel, glass, plastic, wood, stone, and natural fragments such as bone, seeds and pits. If accidentally ingested, these contaminants could cause dental damage, laceration of the mouth or throat, laceration or perforation of the intestine, and other serious injuries. Contaminated food products could cost millions in wasted product, recalls, lawsuits, and loss of sales due to damaged reputation. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective foreign material control solutions for food manufacturers to use for detecting and removing physical contaminants from food products. These approaches can include:
- Sieves and screens
- Metal detectors
- X-ray machines
Industrial-strength magnets are one of the oldest and simplest methods for removing metal foreign materal from food products. Magnets are particularly effective in facilities that have a high risk of ferrous and non-ferrous metal contaminants. Stainless steel is often non-magnetic, depending on the quality and type of material used to manufacture it, so magnets are not a good solution in facilities where stainless steel is a contamination risk.
Sieves and Screens
Screens are flat panels made of wire mesh that filter foreign materal from liquid products. Sieves are machines that shake dry ingredients, such as flour or spices, through one or more screens. Since screens and sieves don’t rely on magnetism, they can filter out any kind of contaminant, including metal, glass, wood, and others.
Metal detectors can be placed over conveyer belts, pipelines, and other areas where product is present. These devices generate an electromagnetic field, and whenever a metal object passes under it, the object disturbs the field and generates a signal. Metal detectors are highly effective at detecting both ferrous and non-ferrous metals but cannot detect all types and grades of stainless steel. Metal detectors can’t detect glass, wood, plastic, or other non-metal contaminants.
X-ray machines are particularly useful in facilities that have a high risk of multiple types of contamination. X-ray machines can detect most types of foreign manterials, including metals, stainless steel, wood, glass, plastic, and natural contaminants. These machines are well-suited to check final packaged products because they can also detect if a package is not properly filled.
Before selecting a foreign material prevention method, facilities should first determine which contaminants are most likely to occur. If a facility uses wooden pallets often, a metal detector may not be the best choice. If a facility is only concerned about ferrous and non-ferrous metal fragments, simple industrial strength magnets may be a good choice. In any case, testing procedures must be in place to ensure that all hazard controls are in proper working order and to ensure that all employees are trained on how to operate and maintain them.
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