In 2013, the United States Drug Administration issued 75 food recalls, of which 13% or 331,732 pounds of products contained extraneous materials. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the UK reported a 27% increase of physical contamination incidents from 2011 to 2013. Figuring out how to minimize the risks of physical contamination can be overwhelming.
To avoid product recalls for foreign contaminants, we suggest you consider the following 5 tips:
Employ Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
Good manufacturing practices are the procedures that should be followed during plant construction and operation to assure maximum food quality. An effective GMP program is the foundation to a company’s quality system to produce safe food products. This foundation is crucial in the prevention of product recalls due to physical contamination. Section 2.3 of the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) addresses potential sources of physical safety hazards and suggested controls to put in place to avoid foreign objects entering your food products.
Poorly maintained equipment and/or production lines are examples of high-risk sources for foreign matter. Pieces of equipment can break off during processing and enter your product resulting in a costly product recall. Properly calibrating your equipment and having a preventative maintenance program in place will help mitigate this risk by assuring your equipment is in tip-top shape.
Glass containers, light fixtures and even the people working on your line are also major sources of contamination. People can lose jewelry or drop pens. Light bulbs and glass jars can break leaving your food vulnerable to glass shards. Having policies and procedures in place to handle the unexpected can be the difference between a safe product and a product recall.
A strict uniform policy appropriate for the work environment will address the human factor threat. For example, requirements for gloves, short nails and a stringent no jewelry rule will help eliminate physical contaminant dangers. You can also purchase specially made pens, hair nets and bandages that can be detected in x-ray machines.
According to the CGMP, light fixtures should have protective covers and a glass breakage policy should be implemented and strictly followed. For example, throw away all food within a 10 or 15 foot radius. Also, change material handling operations by adding a process to clean inverted glass containers with compressed air bursts. You can take measures to properly calibrate glass capping machines and monitor for glass breakage. To further minimize risks, x-ray inspection systems can be placed at critical control points on your production line to detect and reject physical contaminants.
Inspect Supplier Products
It’s not uncommon to get raw materials from your vendors that don’t meet your specifications.
The Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) recommends requiring vender certification or a letter of guarantee as a sample control, as well as several types of equipment to prevent and detect physical safety hazards. Examples include destoners, magnets, screens, washers and x-ray technology. When materials and ingredients come in from suppliers a thorough inspection system can help track where they are coming from, what they contain, and how to address any non-conforming goods. For this reason, many food and beverage manufacturers use x-ray inspection to identify problems early on – before a product recall can occur. Foreign contaminant detection throughout this process allows manufacturers to act quickly and reduce the risk of faulty goods reaching the consumer.
Traceability of Products
To ensure safety and avoid product recalls for foreign contaminants, producers must be able to quickly identify and locate potentially faulty items in the supply chain that could pose a hazard to consumers.
Traceability refers to the tracking of goods along the supply, distribution and manufacturing chain. Why is it important? A strong tracking system helps identify exactly where the product came from, where it went to and where it ultimately landed. The more precise your track and trace system, the faster you can discover and resolve problems.
- Improves the management of your manufacturing process
- Helps reduce and manage inventory
- Optimizes the availability and use of production tools
- Minimizes the potential for distribution of products with foreign contaminants
Hazard Analysis for Critical Control Points (HACCP)
Every manufacturer should perform a hazard analysis throughout the entire production line to identify critical control points where there is risk of foreign bodies being present. A good HACCP program includes a series of scheduled inspections in the plant at critical points of the manufacturing process that ensure all established procedures for maintaining food quality are followed. When the results are acceptable, food processing/manufacturing moves forward. If the results of the tests are unacceptable, food processing ceases until the problems are corrected.
Keep in mind, HACCP is not a stand-alone system. It requires GMP to be in place before application.
HACCP consists of six principle steps:
- Conduct a hazard analysis
- Identify critical control points (CCPs)
- Establish critical limits for each CCP
- Create CCP monitoring requirements
- Establish record-keeping procedures
- Develop procedures to verify the system is working as intended
The second step of HACCP – identify critical control points – helps you choose the best place in the manufacturing process to install x-ray systems for foreign contaminant detection. The ideal point would be the one at which control must be applied to reduce the risk of contamination and potential product recalls. Manufacturers commonly choose the end of the production line for x-ray inspection, but the technology can be installed at any point during the process for precise examination and better results. Deciding where these points occur can be difficult. Read the white paper “How to Select Critical Control Points for X-ray Systems” for more information.
Test Your Quality Control Processes
When dealing with high manufacturing volumes, implementing a sampling plan – determining quality from a sample of the products – can verify whether the goods conform to product specifications. Such tests can be done in-house or with the help of trusted customers by selecting a product and tracking it from materials to store shelves. You should also trace a large amount of products and verify that communication channels are working properly. A deviation from the testing schedule or an unexpected quality-control result would be leading indicators that should trigger a correction, thereby stopping a product recall before it happens.