As demand for ready meals grows, so does the need to detect contaminants in products bound for human consumption. Multi-compartment ready meals in particular, pose distinct challenges, both in the variety of foods and in the different materials used in packaging.
“The rise of meal kits and the ongoing demand for convenient, ready-to-eat or ready-to-prepare foods has made it easier for consumers, but in some ways, has made it more challenging for manufacturers,” says Johselyn Casillas, Applications Engineer for Eagle Product Inspection. “Multiple ingredients within the meal and in different compartments requires another level of detection to prevent foreign bodies from causing food safety and integrity problems.” Moreover, many ready meals include different materials, including trays, films, small pouches, metal seals and outer packaging.
That extra level of protection can be provided by advanced x-ray equipment from Eagle Product Inspection. Eagle’s machines provide superior detection of foreign bodies including glass shards, metal fragments, mineral stone, calcified bone and some rubber and plastic compounds that can wind up in sub-compartments in ready meals, whether those meals are refrigerated, shelf stable or frozen. Among other systems, Eagle offers the Pack 320 PRO machine that enables enhanced contaminant detection and package inspection in high-speed flow-wrap lines and in small to mid-sized packaged products. More recently, Eagle introduced the EPX100, a high-value x-ray inspection system that enhances food safety and product quality in cartons, pouches, plastic containers and items wrapped in foil or metalized films.
In addition to finding contaminants within multi-compartment meals, Eagle’s Pack 320 PRO, EPX100 and other advanced inspection systems help ensure product integrity, from attractive product presentation to accurate product measurements and weights that are pivotal in the production of ready meals. Eagle’s machines can determine fill level, mass measurement, component count and seal inspection for trapped food debris in the entire ready meal or in individual compartments within the ready meal package.
“As they meet the needs of today’s consumers, ready meal manufacturers must overcome challenges to provide the highest quality of food and guard against recalls. It’s an increasingly competitive marketplace, so protecting the brand is essential with contaminant detection and rejection and ongoing quality checks,” adds Casillas.