When you’re producing food, you know you need to provide the safest product possible. One of the things that can help you with this is contaminant-sensing tools. The following will explore one tool that can help with this in detail: x-ray inspection tools.
Not All Contaminants Can Be Seen
Yes, you’re probably able to see if a fly lands on the outside of a food item and gets stuck. You know that this food has been contaminated and needs to be taken out of your production pipeline. But a lot of different contaminants aren’t easy to see. And if this visible contaminant is tucked within your product, it’s not easy to see either.
Contaminants can hide invisibly within air or water or even within solids. For this reason, there are several things you’re going to want to do to reduce the chance that the food you’re making is contaminated. You’re going to want to be cautious of what goes into the water you use to cook; this is especially important if you’ve undergone renovations lately or moved locations and aren’t yet familiar with your new water supply. You also want to be using tools that can help you detect any contaminants in your finished products.
Not All Contaminants Come From Within Your Workplace
It’s important to note that even if you have done your due diligence in ensuring there aren’t any known contaminants entering the food you produce within your workplace from things like piping or improperly cleaned conveyer belts, you still need to understand that staff can bring contaminants inside from the world outside.
Even if you have protocols like hair nets and clothing and shoe covers, things can still get in via people’s breath or sweat, as well as instances where these security measures slip up. If, for instance, someone itches their face with the back of their hand, lifting their hairnet for a moment; contamination can happen.
Pesticides might have been sprayed on the grass in an area where staff regularly walk, resulting in tracked-in pesticides. The point of this isn’t to scare you but to have you understand realistically that you can’t guarantee that contaminants haven’t gotten into the food you produce. You need to be checking your finished products over carefully.
Contaminant Rates Are Growing
Bacterial contamination and chemical contamination are two types of contamination that get regular reporting. When issues arise in these categories, you can find the details and latest updates plastered all over the news. Physical contaminants are reported on less, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a problem. In fact, the rates of foreign materials within food continue to increase. In 2017, for instance, 43% of recalls that the FSIS tracked were the result of foreign materials (this was a 291% increase from the previous year’s rates).
Common causes of foreign contamination include equipment failures and human errors during production. It’s also increasingly common to find that ingredients you purchase from other producers contain contaminants. There is also the sad truth that unhappy employees can sometimes intentionally sabotage the products they’re working with.
In 2017, over 9 million pounds of food were recalled due to foreign materials being present in the food. You probably have a deep understanding of how expensive this turned out to be.
What Is X-ray Food Inspection?
Technological developments have presented food manufacturers with x-ray food inspection technology. These devices use x-rays to look within the food and allow manufacturers to become aware of foreign materials within food products giving companies time to change their practices and sort out problems that could, if left unchecked, result in lost business, recalls, lawsuits, and lost confidence in your brand. Given the amount of money this can save in the long run, many food producers find it well worth the upfront costs associated.
In particular, x-ray inspection is good at capturing tinier foreign materials. Some XR Standard X-Ray Inspection Systems, for instance, can detect items as small as 0.2 millimeters. That’s so small the human eye might have trouble picking it up, particularly if its color or texture blends in well with the food around it.
Companies tend to prefer x-ray inspection machines over alternatives like metal detectors and magnetic separators when they’re dealing with large production runs and a variety of potential foreign objects. They also tend to be very cost-effective overall (especially considering the cost to run). This being said, x-ray inspection machines are a little more expensive on the front end. They’re also great for examining the food that has already been packaged, as they can see through the packaging.
What Features To Look For In X-ray Inspection Systems?
If you’re looking for an x-ray inspection system, you need to first revisit the rules and regulations in your area. Every government has its own standards for food safety and quality, and this means that your need might vary depending on where your manufacturing centers are located. Secondly, you want to consider what types of contaminants your products are at high risk for. If rice is an ingredient, you probably want to be monitored for arsenic.
Once you have a list of things you need to be watching for, you can start looking at x-ray inspection options. Some ideal features include:
- Password-restricted operation access (security is important every step of the way)
- Training is provided by the manufacturer for you and your staff to ensure you’re using it properly
- Full range detection (common metallic and non-metallic contaminants include: hard plastic, glass, hard rubber, ceramic, stone, and bone)
- Sensitivity levels that will register the size of the contaminants you’re worried about
- Physically can be used on the sizes of products you have
- Ease of cleaning
- Defect inspection
The above information should help you better understand x-ray inspection options when it comes to food safety. Of course, no online information should ever replace the process of speaking with a health and safety expert in your field and location, as well as speaking to a lawyer who specializes in helping companies meet the appropriate standards they need for legal security. Finally, it’s important that if you decide to use an x-ray system that includes software activation or management, you need to be taking appropriate cybersecurity measures to ensure that hackers and cybercriminals aren’t able to access your machinery and systems.