The USDA Department of Agriculture wants to help folks stay food safe this Thanksgiving holiday and in a recently published article reminds us of the four steps to food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill — and how they are important every day and at every meal, but are particularly significant on Thanksgiving. There are cross-contamination issues and raw turkey juices to which should be paid particular attention.
However, before your artistically beautiful plate of meats and vegetables is set before you, food processors and manufacturers are utilizing the latest technologies to help keep your Thanksgiving meal, and every meal, safe. Here are some of our previously published articles that address some of the foods we typically see on a Thanksgiving plate… and how manufacturers are using the latest food inspection technologies, including metal detection and X-ray inspection, to find physical contaminants before they reach your grocery shelves.
- How to Detect Non-Metallic Contaminants in Meat (and Poultry) Products. Not all contaminants found in the meat processing environment are metallic — like buckshot. Sometimes bones, stones, plastics and even glass can be present. In these cases, the foreign objects will pass through a metal detector undetected because the contaminants are not conductive.
- And for those who do not eat turkey: Plant-Based Protein Suppliers Face Some of the Same Challenges as Meat Processors. Meat substitutes are made from treated vegetable proteins, and plant-based protein products tend to be highly processed. Common base proteins include soybeans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. The vegetable proteins are condensed and textured through extrusion and forming. Methods can be customized to create a specific texture profile of the finished meat-like product.
- Contamination Challenges for Fruit and Vegetable Processors. Natural products present challenges in downstream handling. Farmed goods can have inherent contaminant risks, for example stones or small rocks can be picked up during harvesting and these can present a damage risk to processing equipment and, unless detected and removed, a safety risk to consumers.
- One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Shard! Potatoes reach the consumer in many forms, such as fries, chips, hash browns, potato skins, potato pancakes, puffs and tots, and starch. They can be canned, baked, mashed, dehydrated, and boiled, frozen in dinners as potatoes au gratin or scalloped potatoes, and packed in plastic containers as potato salad. But before they reach the consumer in those final forms, the potatoes need to be grown, harvested, and inspected.
- Frozen Corn Can Be a Challenge: Partially-frozen packaged vegetables tend to have a high product effect. This negatively impacts the metal detector’s ability to distinguish between actual non-ferrous metal contaminants and the false signal given by the combination of typical product attributes. Complicating matters even more, upstream machinery can accumulate ice which may occasionally deposit into the product — like at the beginning of a new batch. This is also a challenge for metal detectors because the ice deposit can “look” like a metal contaminant to the metal detector.
- How to Beat The Challenge of Baked Bread’s Physical Properties During Inspection. Warm bread coming out of the oven, coupled with its salt content, tends to have a high product effect. This negatively impacts the metal detector’s ability to distinguish between actual non-ferrous metal contaminants and the false signal given by the combination of typical product attributes. This is further complicated by the varying densities, air bubbles and other physical characteristics of each loaf, since no two are exactly the same. (There also are variations between bread types.)
- Time for dessert: Are There More Than Berries in that Blackberry Cobbler? Here’s a pie factory example of how verification processes are being implemented to ensure foreign materials are being controlled
Now that you know there is technology available to help keep physical contaminants out of packaged products, enjoy that beautiful plate of food.