Product recalls are nightmarish situations for brand owners. They tarnish the credibility of a brand, absorb a great deal of resources and hurt both a company’s bottom line and morale. Among the various ways a product can become contaminated, foreign objects from raw materials or faulty manufacturing are the most likely to be reported either by an employee at the production site or a concerned consumer after a purchase has been made. To protect consumers and brands, food manufacturers must implement effective inspection procedures and technologies that can prevent such incidents. Modern product inspection systems with enhanced sensitivity to detect foreign bodies, can address manufacturers’ food safety concerns and allow them to meet today's regulatory demands—increasing the quality and reliability of their products.
For more insight on ways food manufacturers can improve their operations and their bottom lines with advanced product inspection systems—and for a sneak peek of the solutions that will be showcased at PACK EXPO International—Food Engineering spoke with Tom Egan, vice president, industry services at PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, owner and producer of the PACK EXPO family of trade shows.
FE: How can food manufacturers ensure consistent quality for their products?
Egan: Following the principles of HACCP throughout the entire supply chain is the best place to start. Instead of having one final point for product inspection, examining ingredients and processes is the ideal way to tackle and prevent potential issues. The outcome of a HACCP audit will also guide manufacturers toward the appropriate technology to fix any deficiencies that are found.
Especially in a time when consumers are increasingly concerned about food quality, manufacturers need to equip their lines with product inspection technologies that provide consistent quality and prevent any and all contamination incidents. But brand owners and manufacturers must implement the right product inspection technologies, such as X-ray inspection systems and video detection equipment at the critical control points identified. For example, if the greatest contamination threat is from metal shards, a metal detector should be used. If stones or glass poses a grave danger, X-ray inspection equipment would be more appropriate. Video equipment can pick up product quality defects as well as foreign objects like bone fragments.
FE: What are some advances in product inspection technology that can help manufacturers prevent contamination?
Egan: Conventional X-ray inspection has been the method of choice for detecting certain types of foreign objects in food products. In some cases, though, inorganic contaminants such as glass shards, low-density plastics, stones and rocks haven’t been easily detected with conventional X-ray technology.
However, innovative X-ray technology that can discriminate between high and low X-ray channels is now available. For instance, the new systems can detect flat glass and stone in mixed nuts—something conventional X-ray would have difficulty in distinguishing. The new technology can identify materials by their chemical composition, which enables the detection of traditionally undetectable inorganic contaminants. These enhanced X-ray systems have been built based on the demands of food manufacturers that need reliable solutions to detect and remove contaminants regardless of product type or packaging format.
FE: What are the resources manufacturers can look to for guidance?
Egan: As the range of product inspection solutions expands, manufactures may need more guidance on determining which technology will best suit their specific needs. PACK EXPO International—North America’s largest showcase of processing and packaging technologies—will feature over 1,800 exhibitors with their latest solutions. At the show, manufacturers will discover advanced systems that help avoid the short-term and long-term costs that would result from contamination or recall incidents.
The show will also include The Food Safety Summit Resource Center, sponsored by the Food Safety Summit and GE Intelligent Platforms. Located in Booth #S-2962, the center will offer manufacturers free presentations, information on recent breakthroughs in food safety technologies and assistance in sourcing solutions critical to food safety. Subject matter experts will also be on-site to advise attendees on best practices, recent advances and proven strategies for maintaining a safe environment and product.
To register for PACK EXPO International 2014, visit packexpointernational.com. Registration is $30 prior to October 3, 2014 and $60 thereafter.