Editor’s Note: Some of the information below was included in a recent webinar that is now available on-demand. Watch “Maintaining brand values when things go wrong” anytime.
Maintaining quality is a challenge in today’s high-paced, multi-stepped production process in the food industry. Each stage of the process has multiple steps, all of which introduce risk of contamination or quality issues. Here are some areas that need to be monitored:
- Incoming Raw Materials: Farmed goods – the raw materials of the food industry — can have inherent contaminant risks, for example glass, stones or small rocks can be picked up during harvesting. Raw materials must be sorted, washed and prepared for downstream processing. Some foods are waxed, cut, and ground to the appropriate specifications. Any physical contaminants occurring in this step can present a damage risk to processing equipment and, unless detected and removed, a safety risk to consumers.
- Processing: Some products are further processed, moving through multiple cooking, assembly or preparatory operations like blending, molding, cooking, baking, and freezing. Think of the many processing steps that a frozen dinner would need to go through. If pieces of machinery or mesh screens break off during the process, they can contaminate one or more products on the line.
- Packaging: Regardless of the product type, it must be filled, boxed, and palleted correctly, whether the products are in boxes, plastic containers, metal cans, glass jars, or metalized pouches. Is there a possibility of the final product missing components – like individual product pieces (a chocolate from a tray for example), desiccants and flavorings pouches, or the wrong number of units in a case?
Quality also includes knowing that the weight of a packaged product being shipped out the door matches the weight on the label. No one wants to open a package that is only half filled or even empty. Over or under-filling of containers can increase cost through giveaway or lead to penalties and customer dissatisfaction respectively.
- Storage: Storage conditions must be suitable for the product itself. Does it need to be cold or dry? How long may the product be stored before its freshness, quality or safety starts to degrade?
- Transportation: It must be transported in such a way that it reaches point of sale in the best condition and as good as it left the plant.
Now that we have looked at contamination risks as they relate to the food processing industry, let’s touch upon some of the food weighing and inspection technologies that can help reduce those risks.
- Checkweighing systems automatically weigh 100% of the food produced to ensure products meet advertised weights and help plants optimize production efficiency.
- Industrial food metal detectors inspect food to detect unwanted metallic contamination and remove any contaminated packages from the process. 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.
- Food X-ray inspection systems detect both metallic and non-metallic foreign object contaminants as well as providing product integrity data to help ensure quality.
- Combo systems combine techniques to save space in the plant and provide both quality and safety inspections.
These technologies can help protect your product and your reputation in today’s competitive food industry by providing reliable, cost-effective protection from even the smallest metal contaminants found in food production almost anywhere in a process.