F&S Produce started 37 years ago from one man with a great idea. Today, the Vineland, N.J., company is a a supplier of refrigerated fresh-cut and frozen produce, purees and specialty prepared foods that processes over 100 million pounds of produce annually for retail, foodservice and industrial customers. To meet rising demand, F&S Produce opened a third facility in November 2018, and installed six Signature Touch metal detectors from Mettler-Toledo Safeline, Tampa, Fla., to maximize food safety on the new packaging lines.
“Metal detectors are an essential part of our food safety program and were non-negotiable when we were planning our new plant. We have been using Safeline metal detectors from the beginning in our other facilities and have been very happy with their performance. Plus, we have great relationships with Mettler-Toledo and our longtime sales rep, Joe Young from Reliant Packaging Machinery, [New Garden Township, Pa.] It just made sense to work with them again,” says Sam Pipitone Jr., president and founder of F&S Produce. “To do our due diligence, we considered other suppliers, but the Signature Touch systems offer the best value. They give us all the user-friendly functionality we need at a great price.”
“Our environment is challenging for electronics because it’s cold and wet. Sanitation is a top priority since we manufacture fresh-cut products, so we wash down all our equipment daily, even the ones inspecting packaged products,” says Sam Pipitone III, vice president of F&S Produce. “It’s a testament to the workmanship and quality of our Safeline metal detectors that they withstand all that water exposure just fine. They give us great uptime and are very dependable.”
Signature Touch metal detectors find both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, including even the most difficult-to-detect non-magnetic stainless-steel fragments. With high-frequency advanced coil technology and state-of-the-art electronic filtering techniques, these systems maximize detection sensitivity and minimize false rejects.
At the new F&S Produce facility in Vineland, six Signature Touch systems inspect a wide variety of retail products, including fresh-cut fruits and vegetables as well as prepared entrées and side dishes such as stir-fries, protein salads, wraps, sandwiches, snack kits, salsas, meal solutions and more. Packages range in size from 2-ounce bags of sliced apples to 1-pound side dishes on compostable foam trays to 30-pound bulk vegetables packed in polypropylene bags, all of which are sent through the metal detectors as the final step before secondary packaging. Products that don’t pass inspection are automatically removed from the line with a pneumatic reject arm, also from Mettler-Toledo.
“Our metal detectors are an essential part of our SQF certification, HACCP program and our food defense plan – we couldn’t function without them,” says Colin Turner, chief sustainability officer at F&S Produce. “To ensure their sensitivity is consistent, our quality control team tests them at each startup, changeover and at 30-minute intervals. The Mettler-Toledo team also comes in every year to do complete audits on all our metal detectors.”
In addition to the six new conveyorized Signature Touch systems, F&S Produce’s other two facilities rely on nine existing Mettler-Toledo metal detectors.
In 2015, F&S Produce installed a pipeline Signature Touch on a line that produces a variety of purees sold to customers for soups, beverages, flavorings and other similar applications. The purees run through the 4-inch pipeline before being sent to a cleanroom for packaging into containers that range from 5-gallon pails to 50-gallon drums. If metal were to be detected, a Safeline diverter valve reject device would redirect a portion of the product into a diversion bin for analysis.
“When we started researching our first metal detectors, other food processors suggested Mettler-Toledo. We learned they have a reputation for making the most reliable and durable systems,” says Pipitone Jr. “Over the next four years, we installed six Safeline PowerPhasePRO systems and two PowerPhasePLUS systems, which we still use today for both retail and industrial products. They have great sensitivity, even with all the vibrations from other line equipment nearby.”
“Our Vineland, N.J., facility enables us to expand our operations and increase capacity. We’re setting a best-in-class manufacturing standard in the fresh-cut industry, and we rely on world-class technology like our Mettler-Toledo systems to do that,” adds Pipitone III. “Our Safeline metal detectors are reliable, simple to use and easy to clean. They’re an essential part of protecting consumers and keeping our customers happy.”