FAQs of X-ray Product Inspection

Food & Beverage
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Face-to-face interview with x-ray inspection expert, Kyle Thomas, to answer the most commonly asked x-ray product inspection questions. Kyle has 20 years’ experience in the inspection industry and has been with Eagle for the past 10 years. He’s currently working as the company’s Strategic Business Unit Manager. We had a moment to sit down together so I could get the answers you want to know regarding x-ray product inspection and its detection capabilities.

Q. Is x-ray equipment for food inspection safe?

A. Yes, x-ray systems are safe. Machines don’t carry radiation sources. X-rays are generated in the machine by shooting electrons at a Tungsten target that generates x-rays. When the x-ray is off, there is no radiation present.

Using an x-ray machine is also 100% safe for food inspection. X-rayed food is not radioactive. In fact, food that’s been inspected by x-ray is indistinguishable from food that hasn’t. Flavor and nutritional value are unchanged. Our infographic illustrates more of these interesting x-ray safety facts.

Q. What can an x-ray system detect?

A. X-ray inspection systems can detect objects that are denser than water. The general rule is if it floats on water, it is less dense than water. For example, an x-ray system can find hollow hearts in potatoes because they are less dense than the surrounding potato. Therefore, generally contaminants such as bugs, wood or plastic cannot be detected. There is a lot of variability with plastic. Plastics which are embedded with barium are detectable, pure plastic cannot be seen.

X-ray inspection systems can detect all types of granite and ceramic stone because it is denser than water. There are many types of stones with varying sizes, it all depends on the density of their surrounding products for accurate detection. X-ray equipment for food inspection can detect ferrous and non-ferrous metal because their density does not vary much in comparison to stainless steel. Aluminum can also be detected depending on its size as it is less dense versus other metals. It can also detect calcium in bone and therefore detects bone. Calcium build-up occurs immediately at time of death. The calcium seen as whiteness in a bone is what x-ray equipment detects.

Potatoes with Hollow Hearts
Metal Detection in Cheese Block
Contaminants in Tall Cartons

Q. Can an x-ray machine weigh product?

A. X-ray systems can provide a weight value of the product. However, an x-ray machine doesn’t have a weight sensor such as a load cell—it’s not a scale or checkweigher. X-ray inspection systems provide a weight by “teaching” the density of the product to a weight algorithm. This algorithm converts product density to a mass or weight value.

Q. Can x-ray inspection systems see if a package is open or closed?

A. X-ray in rigid applications with jars on a conveyor can verify if a lid is present. On boxed products, it all depends on the package. For non-rigid packaging such as foil or plastic bags, the x-rays will not be useful to check for open or closed packages.

Q. What additional quality checks are possible with x-ray technology?

A. Besides superior contaminant detection, x-ray systems also provide additional quality checks simultaneously and at high-line speeds. X-ray can check the head space or fill level which is used as a gauge after sealing products such as canned goods, yogurts or ready meals. Inspection equipment can also count products, as long as what needs to be counted is denser than the surrounding products. Additionally, x-ray can count whether there is product in divisions within packaging. And when it comes to checking product and package integrity, x-ray technology can do both. For example, x-ray software can identify broken cookies in packages, misshaped burger patties in boxes, reject dented cans and detect dense food trapped in seals.

Q.  How accurate is an x-ray inspection system?

A. X-ray product inspection has a 95% probability of detection also known as POD. Why not let Eagle test your products in our lab? Book a complimentary product analysis to discover how x-ray inspection technology can transform your line.

Q. Can an x-ray machine for food inspection check package integrity?

A. There are three main benefits an x-ray inspection system provides, with the first being detection of foreign contaminants to ensure product safety. Secondly, both red meat processors and slaughterhouses need to produce high-quality products to their desired specifications consistently and, in order to do that, they need to be able to measure 100% of all the meat products that run through their production line. Fat analysis x-ray systems can quickly and accurately measure the chemical lean (CL) or fat content.

The third benefit is the ability to optimize their production processes to maximize profits. By taking into account the variation of the fat content of raw materials and also the associated costs of these raw materials, along with the prices that red meat processors and slaughterhouses get for the final products they take to market, FA x-ray systems can play a key role in optimizing production.

Q. Where is the best location to place an x-ray product inspection machine on my poultry line?

A. There are a few different areas poultry processors can place an x-ray system depending on their critical control points. An x-ray machine can be placed at the start of the line where raw poultry enters to check for contaminants. This ensures the removal of foreign bodies as well as stops hazards earlier in the process before they can cause problems to downstream product or equipment.

By the time poultry product gets to the end of a production line where it’s packaged, invariably that’s the final check any supplier can do to ensure product is safe for consumption. At this inspection point, an x-ray machine can check for contaminants and simultaneously check a package’s weight as well as ensure that it contains the right number of products. In the video below, follow poultry product through an entire production line to see how Eagle x-ray machines can provide multiple points of inspection.

Q. What are some contaminant detection challenges when it comes to inspecting seafood products?

A. Bones are a consistent challenge. Fish bones are long but very narrow. You must have sufficient x-ray software resolution to detect such tiny objects. Another challenge is the low x-ray absorptiometry of fish bones by nature—the contrast between bone and fish flesh is very low.

Discerning between bone and fish requires a highly sensitive detector, like Eagle’s PXT™ detector. Exclusive to Eagle, this technology captures more detailed information about a product being inspected than has been previously possible. In addition to small bones in fish, x-ray systems can be used to find shell fragments and fish hooks, which impact both food safety and quality. Other contaminants can be introduced during processing, such as wire, machinery shavings and even small pieces of glass that could accidently get into a product if a lamp breaks on the line.

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