It’s every food producer’s nightmare: a consumer complaint of metal found in the packaged product they purchased. In a recent case, one company received a report that metal was found in the meat pizza the consumer had purchased. The company notified the FDA of the complaint and the lot numbers of the affected product so appropriate action could be taken. Luckily there have been no confirmed reports of injuries or adverse reactions due to consumption of the product.
Recalls are expensive. The average direct cost (including scrap, administration and lost sales) of a food product recall in the US is close to $10M but can end up being much higher, up to $100M in the case of a very large event.
The indirect costs to a manufacturer can also be quite high. Increased insurance premiums can be a result of a food recall, as well as damage to the reputation of the brand. Most food manufacturers utilize food weighing and contaminant inspection equipment as part of their food safety and quality control program. Metal detection technology is one of the most common ways that food processers help ensure there are no metal contaminants in the foods that reach the customers’ hands.
Wet and conductive products with high salt and fat content can produce a response in the metal detector system that can be mistaken for, or mask, a contaminant response – this is known as product effect. For frozen products, the level of freeze is important; partially frozen product will respond differently versus fully frozen product when passing through a metal detector and, unless taken into account, this can cause false rejects as production conditions vary throughout the day.
Product effects are present in most ingredients on frozen pizza, considering the bread, dairy, salty, wet, and frozen aspects. With a slight temperature difference, all these ingredients can present slightly different product signal, leading to a potential false reject.
There is, however, innovative signal processing technology that can minimize product effect, and make contaminant detection easier. For conductive products that contain high salt, mineral, and moisture content, using the latest technology can improve detection sensitivity 10–40%, depending on the product composition. This metal detection technology utilizes one optimized frequency per product application ranging from 50 to 1000 kHz. By using an optimized frequency for each product, a higher level of metal detection can be reached for all products because there is no need to compromise by choosing a single fixed frequency for all. This technology also includes an advanced phase tracking feature that can automatically compensate small, gradual signal changes over time. This is especially helpful for applications which product temperature or composition slightly change during production run or between batches.
Multiscan technology is a similar technology that scans up to five user-selectable frequencies running at a time. Multiscan 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 – such as pizza — with high product effect.
Assuring the safety of frozen foods is crucial to consumer health. Fortunately, special metal detector scanning technologies help make frozen food – whether it contains bread, dairy, or meat – more safe in a rapidly changing environment.
To learn more about the latest metal detection technology for frozen foods, read the application note, Assuring the Safety of Frozen Foods During a Global Pandemic – and Beyond.