Updated metal detectors and X-ray systems help food processors prevent contamination.
Editor's note: To learn about the newest developments in
contamination detection - including both metal detection and X-ray
systems -Refrigerated & Frozen Foodsturned to Gerry
Broski, director of marketing for Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.,
Waltham, Mass., and Oscar Jeter, national sales manager for
Mettler-Toledo Safeline Inc., Tampa, Fla.
R&FF:What's new in metal detectors and X-ray systems?
Gerry Broski:Current-generation metal detectors address the need for durability to
withstand real world sanitation and washdown procedures, multiple
frequencies for better detection over a variety of products,
user-friendly operator interfaces and connectivity for data collection
We are seeing a stratification of the market
for X-ray systems. At the high end of the market, X-ray systems are
differentiated by smaller diode sizes for higher detection sensitivity
and more powerful software with features such as mass measurement. At a
"standard" level we have seen the need for systems which offer
economical contaminant detection beyond metal detection, with a simple
feature set and uncomplicated user interface.
Oscar Jeter:Metal detection continues to improve the ability to find smaller and
smaller metal particles, especially in conductive (wet) products. There
is also the ability to document all areas of the contaminant detection
program to help comply with HACCP and vendor certification programs.
R&FF:Speaking of HACCP and vendor certification, what are food processors' biggest detection concerns?
The greatest concern is contaminated product reaching the public, or a
product recall due to contamination. Every food processor wants to put
out a quality product. Tracking and tracing raw materials and finished
products are critical to compliance with regulations and food safety.
Prevention through diligent inspection and detection is the best way to
ensure quality products. These detection systems also must be
periodically tested and properly maintained for optimum performance. In
terms of the actual equipment, food processors want reliability,
sensitivity, high throughput, safety and ease of use.
With more product recalls in the news, all processors are deeply
concerned about solid contamination of any type. Metal is still the No.
1 complaint generator for most food industry segments. Having a metal
detector will not ensure a metal free product - but when implemented as
a part of a comprehensive contaminant control program - it will provide
assurance of product purity.
R&FF:What challenges do food plants face in using contaminant detectors?
A key challenge is compliance with regulations and the ability to track
and trace materials and products. Another challenge is the wide variety
of products and packaging configurations. New materials are constantly
being introduced to appeal to consumers. Foil pouches, metallic
packaging, oxygen scavengers and product premiums may present
challenges to contaminant detection systems.
processors must] maintain good records, audit and test contaminant
inspection systems and stay informed on the latest detection
technology. They also should work with the contaminant detection system
manufacturers to make sure requirements are well understood when
specifying a detection system.
There are many challenges in solid contaminant detection that food
processors need help with. Wood is a contaminant that cannot be
detected by metal detectors or X-ray inspection. Only a program
designed to prevent the inclusion of these contaminants will be
R&FF:What are some of your company's latest technologies?
Our newest developments in terms of solid contaminant detection are
incorporated in our Thermo Scientific APEX metal detector product line.
This line has a patented multi-coil design, which enables a 20 percent
improvement in detector sensitivity and a low false-reject rate.
For X-ray systems, we offer our Thermo Scientific POWERx Systems,
which provide state-of-the-art detection sensitivity and software
capability for demanding applications, including glass-in-glass
At the other end of the spectrum, we offer Thermo
Scientific Ezx, which is designed to facilitate the transition from
metal detectors to X-ray detectors. The graphic user interface is
simple and easy to use. Product setup is easy with a quick-learn
feature and auto calibration of the system components.
Our new developments are making the metal detector smarter so that less
operator intervention is required. Icon-driven touch screen controls
make it easy for even unskilled employees to quickly learn to use the
detector. An early warning alert of component deterioration helps
prevent costly downtime.
R&FF:How has contaminant detection changed during the last 10 years?
In the last 10 years we saw widespread use of metal detectors as the
principal means of product safety and brand protection. In the last
five years, the cost of X-ray systems has declined and gained wider
acceptance as a safe and reliable method of solid contaminant
detection. Food processors are gradually integrating more X-ray systems
as the preferred method of solid contaminant detection.
From a market standpoint, food is sourced and processed on a
global basis and the threat of contamination has increased
Government regulation of our food supply is
increasing as tracking and tracing of materials and products become
critical to maintaining a secure food supply infrastructure.
Jeter:The widespread implementation of X-ray inspection is the biggest change
we have seen. Food processors are adding X-ray to their production
lines in growing numbers.
R&FF:In your opinion, what's next in contaminant detection?
Broski:There is a lot of speculation as to what the next generation of
products will be. The next breakthrough will most likely be in
sensor technology; be it electromagnetic, biosensor, micromechanical or
some hybrid version of a combination of technologies. Considering
the diversity and complexity of our food matrix, the increasing
globalization and transportation of raw materials and end products, and
the diversity of food production, it's clear that the need for
contaminant detection, including solid, organic and chemical will
continue to grow. We can also expect that contaminant detectors will
become more integrated into processing systems as data capture points
for conformance and verification for quality assurance.
Jeter:Many options are being explored, but no huge breakthroughs are seen at
this point in time. The present technology in metal detection and X-ray
inspection will continue to improve and more features will be added to
make the systems easier to use and increase uptime.