The Iglo Group is one of the leading frozen foods businesses in Europe, offering a wide range of frozen fish, seafood, vegetables and chicken. Iglo Group’s iconic brands, such as Birds Eye and Iglo, are synonymous with convenient and sustainable quality frozen food.
Iglo also produces its branded frozen food products for different regions in Western, Central and Eastern Europe. As Iglo targets and operates in so many different markets, its goal is to not only meet the growing demand for healthy, convenient and sustainable products, but also comply with the highest international food safety standards and organizations, such as the European Food Safety Authority and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
To enhance its product inspection, Iglo implemented systems from Eagle Product Inspection, Tampa, Fla., in its German site in Reken. Thanks to the implementation of Eagle systems, Iglo can detect any possible product contaminants, better control production and achieve improved supply chain traceability and overall brand competiveness.
Move toward x-ray technology
Prior to the implementation of x-ray technology, Iglo production lines were inspected with traditional metal detectors. However, as the detection capabilities of these technologies are limited with regard to non-metallic contaminants, Iglo decided to evaluate the capabilities of the latest x-ray systems to enhance contaminant detection in its operations. Arno Strotmann, project manager at the Iglo site in Reken, ran several tests of different product inspection equipment, including Eagle systems.
After testing options from eight x-ray inspection equipment manufacturers, Strotmann chose to incorporate the top three systems at the end of Iglo production lines in order to judge the performance of each in the plant environment. One of these was the Eagle Pack 430, a system designed for mid-sized packaged products and capable of high-speed multi-lane inspection.
A key parameter in Iglo’s evaluation process was the ability to withstand the harsh environment and extreme temperatures common in Iglo’s frozen production facility. Iglo’s fish and vegetables remain frozen during the inspection process at -18°C, a temperature that not all inspection systems are designed to handle. Frozen products can have a high moisture content, which can interfere with the sensitivity of traditional inspection technologies, such as metal detectors, decreasing the accuracy of inspection procedures. However, x-ray inspection systems are not affected by temperature or moisture content, as they identify contaminants based on product density variations.
Results indicated that Eagle’s Pack 430 not only met their expectations, but exceeded them, showing an ability to perform in cold temperatures and in environments with high moisture content. The system also detected glass shards and a wide range of non-metallic contaminants that were planted in test packages during the trials, thanks to its material discrimination x-ray (MDX) technology. MDX can discriminate materials by their chemical composition (atomic number), allowing the detection and rejection of historically difficult-to-detect inorganic contaminants such as glass, rocks, rubber and plastic.
In order to integrate the Pack 430 in Reken’s production lines, Iglo needed smaller systems that could match the length and height of the existing equipment on site. To meet this requirement, Eagle provided on-site support and supplied customized systems that were easily integrated into the existing plant layout.
“We were very impressed with Eagle’s on-site service,” says Strotmann. “The team adjusted the equipment to meet our needs perfectly.”
Currently, Iglo’s Reken site is home to four Eagle Pack 430 systems on four different production lines, inspecting a wide range of different products, which require varied inspections settings depending on size, type of packaging, possible contaminants and line speed. Eagle’s equipment allows for flexible changeovers between products, as it counts with complex software that can be re-programmed and adapted to the specific format of the product being inspected. In addition, Eagle offered extensive training for Iglo’s operators on-site, ensuring the desired high levels of food safety know-how on the plant floor.
“The easy and quick changeover of inspection parameters between products increased efficiency and allowed us to meet the highest food safety standards,” adds Strotmann.
Increased traceability and customized service
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states in its General Food Law (Article 18) that authorities and manufacturers must be able to track any food through all stages of production, processing and distribution in order to prevent unsafe foods from reaching consumers. With the Eagle Trace software, Iglo can save all data and images resulting from the inspection procedures in Reken.
Moreover, the Eagle Trace software can gather historical data from the networked Eagle systems on the Iglo site and store it in a database on a server for later viewing. The Eagle Remote Viewer software also allows Iglo to process its inspection data in the form of trend lines, histograms, product reports or barcode specific information from the database. These capabilities allow Iglo to track all its products and show due diligence in case of product recall.
At the moment, Iglo performs regular trials to ensure that its inspection systems are performing adequately, and Eagle’s Pack 430 systems have been consistently successful. As a result of the positive feedback generated by these technologies, another Iglo site in Bremerhaven, Germany, purchased its own Eagle systems in early 2012. Moreover, project managers in the company’s Italian plants are considering the purchase of Eagle systems.
As the Iglo Group continues to grow and expand across Europe, its focus will remain on maintaining a strong brand reputation based on quality, freshness and great taste.
“Our frozen vegetables are picked and frozen within hours of harvest and retain all their freshness,” says Strotmann. “Eagle is helping us protect the high quality of our products, our brands and our customers with sensitive contaminant detection.”