Last Fall, Whole Foods Market, predicted some of the top food trends they expected for 2021, which included commercial food organizations utilizing more ‘upcycled foods.’ What they referred to as upcycled foods were unused plant parts that most people would normally throw away, or at best, toss into the compost bin – like peels, stems, seeds, and pulp.
Eating banana skins may be old hat among vegans, in different parts of the world, or by hip chefs, but now they are becoming common among packaged food products. According to the Whole Foods article:
Peels and stems have come a long way from the compost bin. We’re seeing a huge rise in packaged products that use neglected and underused parts of an ingredient as a path to reducing food waste. Upcycled foods, made from ingredients that would have otherwise been food waste, help to maximize the energy used to produce, transport and prepare that ingredient.
An article on Greenbiz.com noted that there are bakery companies utilizing grain and malt byproducts from brewers to be used in bread loaves, nutritional bars and other food products. One beverage company is offering an antioxidant-rich drink made from avocado seeds.
Forbes recently reported that a New York-based food company that produces dried snacks sells minimally processed whole fruit snacks with peels. According to a SELF article, there are crispy chips (for people) made from salmon skin, chocolate chip cookies made with Okara (a Tofu byproduct) flour, and malt grain husks turned into snack puffs.
If you are a food processor, you may have been exploring how to utilize food products that are normally thrown away – whether it was for cost savings, environmental reasons, innovation, meeting consumer demand, or giving a boost to revenue. But if you are going to explore new raw ingredients for your new product offerings, you need to make sure that your food safety equipment can inspect these “new” ingredients and detect any foreign physical contaminants.
The first questions you should ask yourself is if the food metal detectors and X-ray inspection systems that you are using now are appropriate for new snacks you may be producing, or if they are being used in the most appropriate section of the plant.
You may have used an X-ray detection and inspection system in the past to help find glass, rocks, bones or plastic pieces in raw materials shipped from farms. (Read One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Shard!) 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. But those thick stems and peels may look like foreign contaminants and constantly reject good products, or machine operators could shut off the machines because of the false positives and escapes that could happen.
It might not make sense to use X-ray for your raw material scanning as thick stems might appear as denser objects. But it might make sense to install the equipment further down the line, after the raw materials are processed into flour, chips, puffs, or the final format.
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. The newest multiscan metal detectors are capable of scanning up to five user-selectable frequencies running at a time, offering one of the highest probability of finding ferrous, non-ferrous, and stainless steel metal contaminants.
For details about which method is best, read the previously published article X-ray Inspection vs. Metal Detection.
Consumers may be thrilled that the snack food they picked off the grocery shelf is helping to reduce food waste and provide a new taste sensation, but they won’t be thrilled if it contains any physical contaminants. Think upcycling, not upsetting.