It seems that at the start of every new year, folks promise themselves that they will follow a healthier diet. The media inundates us with weight loss and healthier lifestyle ads, and gym membership applications go up (even if they get abandoned a few months later).
But that doesn’t seem to apply to the world of snacks and breakfast foods this year.
A recent article on foodnetwork.com names some of the ‘best’ groceries hitting store shelves this year. They also referred to them as the craziest. Here are a few examples from the article, and you can decide whether they are tasty or crazy:
- Cereals that look and taste like Twinkies and Jolly Rancher candies.
- Chocolate pretzel Pop-Tarts
- Chocolate marshmallow Oreos
- Boxed peanut brittle mix
- Sour crunchy crawlers
However, there were a few examples in the article that actually do offer a healthier take of an old favorite – like gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and veggie goldfish crackers.
If you are a food processor, you most likely welcome new snacks that will liven up the market and give a boost to the industry. But if you are going to take advantage of any new sales, you must make sure that your food safety equipment can accommodate any new packaging these crazy new food offerings may require. Crazy snacks or not, no one thinks foreign contaminants in the package is a good thing.
The first question you should ask yourself is if your food metal detectors and X-ray inspection systems are appropriate for new snacks you may be producing?
If your main concern is metal, wires, or mesh screen contamination in small, dry products, then you should choose a metal detector. Metal detectors use high frequency radio signals to detect the presence of metal in food or other products. A digital signal processing system analyzes certain signals and sends an alert if metal is present. The newest multiscan metal detectors are capable of scanning up to five user-selectable frequencies running at a time. This technology provides unmatched sensitivity and the highest probability of finding ferrous, non-ferrous, and stainless steel metal contaminants in challenging applications such as dairy, meat, poultry, bread, and other foods with high product effect.
However, many snack foods are packaged in metalized material that is formed into a bag and has heat seals on either end. This kind of packaging helps keep out moisture, oils, air, and odors. Since the package contains a form of metal, a thin layer of aluminum in most cases, metal detection is not a good choice for contaminant detection. An X-ray detection and inspection system is the better choice to help find glass, rocks, bones or plastic pieces. X-ray inspection systems are based on the density of the product and the contaminant. Foreign matter appears as a darker shade of grey and helps identify foreign contaminants.
X-ray inspection is one of the first lines of defense to identify the presence of foreign contaminants in food products before they have a chance to leave the processing plant. Unlike metal detectors that offer protection from many types of metal contaminants encountered in food production, X-ray systems can ‘ignore’ the packaging and find virtually any substance that is denser or sharper than the object containing it. (For details about which method is best, read the previously published article X-ray Inspection vs. Metal Detection.)
Food manufacturers can even add inline checkweighers to weigh packaged products to help ensure that they contain the correct amount of expensive product ingredients that are on the label and that the dispensing equipment is operating correctly. This aids in problem identification and facilitates uptime on today’s high-rate lines. There are some types of equipment that combine both checkweighing and metal detection technology for a smaller footprint on the production floor.
But no matter what ingredients are in the package – sugary, salty, or crazy – the most important trend that matters to consumers is for manufacturers to ensure a quality product, free of physical contaminants, reaches their hands.