HACCP plans are effective because they identify and address critical control points in an operation. In a similar and more specific way, identifying and analyzing your vulnerabilities to physical contaminants, from receiving to processing to packaging, can help you gauge your risk for a safety-related recall – and lower that risk through protective measures like x-ray inspection.
Is your operation optimally reducing risks of physical contaminants that can lead to food safety-related incidents and recalls? Perhaps taking another view of your risks from end-to-end can give you an idea of the effectiveness of your current interventions.
There’s point of view and another kind of POV: points of vulnerability. Determining your points of vulnerability for physical contaminants is akin to identifying critical control points that are part of your HACCP program.
After all, contaminants can be introduced at many points. Any time you have human beings in a facility around equipment, there is vulnerability: it could be the cap of a pen, a piece of a glove or the handle of a screw someone is holding. X-ray systems can protect your products by finding and rejecting these and other foreign materials at key points of vulnerability:
- Incoming raw material: Do your ingredient suppliers inspect for contaminants before they ship items to you? If they are not, checking incoming raw materials and ingredients is an early and pivotal point of vulnerability. Contaminants can trickle back through the whole supply chain, and can include anything from golf balls that are harvested along with produce or pieces of rock that come along with potatoes from a farm. X-ray inspections can find contaminants like these and others.
- In-process: It makes sense to add x-ray machines after the first few steps of processing. There are points of vulnerabilities in those stages, especially any time there is friction on a device, like a grinder or mixer, that can cause something to break. We’re starting to see demand for more units in a line, actually, to detect contaminants and also demonstrate that a manufacturer is proactive in their safety efforts. We work with customers to determine where points of vulnerability are along their line, identify them as critical control points and add the proper x-ray system to mitigate risks.
- Packaging: Inspecting packages is a stopgap measure to make sure tainted products don’t leave your facility. There are some vulnerabilities in this stage of production as well. A package may already contain a foreign body, and x-ray machines can find that. Or something may become embedded during the process of forming the final package. We often inspect packaging right before it goes on the pallet and out the door.
In addition to lowering risks at points of vulnerability, x-ray systems offer other benefits through various stages of the manufacturing process. For example, if you look at traditional checkweighing, which is also a control point, you can combine checkweighing with contaminant detection through Eagle’s x-ray systems equipped with mass measurement capability. Eagle’s systems also perform important quality checks, like component count, fill level and more.
In addition to having an inspection solution in place, it’s important to make sure those points of vulnerability don’t open up again. Ensuring machinery is running properly by having a performance verification program in place is crucial in ensuring continual safety.