Safeway Fresh Foods, a Vineland, N.J.-based family-owned processor of healthy ready-to-eat snacks and meals, goes to market under the Sunnyside Farms brand and customers’ private labels. Behind their motto, “Your brand integrity is safe with us,” is an unwavering commitment to high-quality product and food safety at every step of the operation. That’s why Safeway Fresh Foods relies on equipment from the Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection Group, Tampa, Fla., for all nine of their production lines (eight Safeline metal detectors, a Safeline x-ray inspection system and three Hi-Speed checkweighers).
“During my 40-year career, I’ve had the opportunity to use metal detectors and checkweighers from many different suppliers. When I landed with Mettler-Toledo, I decided to stay with them,” says Sal Tedesco, co-owner of Safeway Fresh Foods. “Their equipment is very dependable and easy to maintain. We’ve had great success with them despite our hostile environment. It’s cold and wet during production; then we subject these machines to a rigorous sanitation routine that includes a caustic hot water washdown. Despite our challenging environment, this inspection equipment is pain-free.”
Safeway uses Signature Touch metal detectors to find ferrous and non-ferrous tramp metal and the most difficult-to-detect, non-magnetic stainless-steel fragments and non-spherical fine wire contaminants. Featuring high-frequency advanced detection coil technology and dynamic filtering techniques, these metal detectors maximize detection sensitivity while inspecting Safeway’s many products that go to convenience stores, supermarkets, club stores, quick-service restaurants and more.
“It’s critical that the metal detectors maintain their high sensitivity despite big changes in the size of the package and the nature of the product. This sensitivity is the difference between finding something and not finding something that could break a tooth or lacerate a mouth,” adds Tedesco. “Customer safety is our highest priority and the driving force for choosing Mettler-Toledo’s inspection equipment.
To ensure constant detection sensitivity, every metal detector is tested at the beginning of each shift and periodically during every production run.
“The dependability of these metal detectors is excellent,” says Tedesco. “I can’t remember a single Mettler-Toledo machine coming offline due to a malfunction.”
Safeway installed a Certus x-ray system from Mettler-Toledo Safeline to inspect 5-pound bulk packages of protein-based salads such as chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad and more.
“We chose Mettler-Toledo’s x-ray system for our bulk salad line instead of a metal detector because we wanted to find bone and gristle in the chicken salad in addition to metal contamination in all products,” says Tedesco. “The x-ray identifies unexpected differences in the product’s density and kicks those packages out. We adjust the detection sensitivity to perfectly suit each of the products that run on that line.”
To monitor fill levels, Safeway has beltweigh checkweighers on three of their production lines where detecting underfills and/or overfills has significant value. On two grab-and-go lines that pack fresh fruits and vegetables into 3- to 14-ounce bags, bowls and trays, the Hi-Speed checkweighers reject underweight packages from the line and record overweight packages to give Safeway valuable information used to adjust the fillers and reduce product give-away. On a line where five people each add one fruit to mixed-fruit trays and bowls in 2-pound trays or 3-pound bowls, the checkweigher is programmed to detect only underweight packages, so fruit can be added, if needed, before the package is sealed.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, ease of use is a 10 on all our equipment from Mettler-Toledo. They clearly did their homework. It’s easy to install, easy to set up, easy to use and easy to sanitize,” says Tedesco. “The customer service we get from them and our sales rep, Joe Young from Reliant Packaging Systems [Chester, N.J.], is also impeccable. This inspection equipment from Mettler-Toledo protects our consumers. It also protects the owner of the finished product and us, the supplier. I wouldn’t run a production line without it.”