Above and Beyond
Ciaran Murphy, quality inspection control business manager at Ishida Europe, explores how foreign body inspection systems are adding value to the food production industry
The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system is a preventative approach to food safety from biological, chemical and physical hazards in production processes.
Launched 20 years ago, the seven principles aim to focus attention on the identification and control of microbiological, as well as chemical and physical food safety hazards, during production. The hazard assessment and the regular monitoring of critical control measures must be documented to provide the basis for audit checks and may provide evidence of due diligence in the event of legal action.
Recent studies on physical hazards that can be found in food, identified that some 40% of the contaminants can be categorised as “hard dangerous contaminants”. Contaminants that fall into this category typically have the potential to be unsafe and/or have the largest potential for liability claims and adverse brand impact. As such these contaminants - which include bones, metal, glass and stones – tend to be the focus for food producers in foreign body detection. Other contaminants – insects, hairs, fabric – although unpleasant tend to be less dangerous and as such do not typically get the same scrutiny.
The FSA have recently indicated that some 20% of all food contaminants are due to foreign bodies which can lead to product recalls and in certain instances law suits. While claims have gone up by 65% between 2011 and 2015, the average value of a defective product claim in the UK is now > £312K. This is the tangible financial impact to hard foreign body contaminants in food, however there is also the intangible brand impact which a product recall can have – made even more prevalent given the ease with which bad news spreads through social media.
One of the seven principles of HACCP is to ‘establish monitoring procedures’ and this is crucial to protecting both consumers and a business’ reputation. There are numerous detection methods available on the market, including metal detection, optical sorting, magnets, X-rays and separation systems.
Possibly the most prominent and cost-effective solution on the market is metal detection which is quite suitable for removing metals from food products. However standard metal detectors cannot cater for metalised foil packaging. Their performance in metal foreign body detection is also limited by a number of factors including:
- Product moisture content
- Encroachment into metal free zone (MFZ)
- Metal contamination orientation
- Position of contaminant within the aperture
While X-ray technology tends to be more expensive than metal detectors, it tends to offer a range of advantages in the ability to detect more than metal contaminants and to be generally product and packaging neutral. However, the detection capability of X-ray platforms is dependent on a number of factors which include:
- Generator power and ability to use low kV settings
- Generator material type
- Pixel (diode) size
- Imaging analysis software
Both metal detectors and X-ray systems can be part of a HACCP programme, however they have benefits and weaknesses which can possibly be summarised in the table below:
Whether you are making your first investment or considering changing technologies, it is important to obtain the correct advice and assistance for your business. After all the growth of your business and brand identity and protection depend on it.