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Wipe Out These 5 Food Contaminants with X-ray Inspection

Food & Beverage

There is the “Dirty Dozen” list of food contaminants and then there is the “Faulty Five,” which is made up of glass, metal, mineral stone, calcified bone and plastic-rubber compounds. These foreign materials cause product recalls which can severely damage a company’s reputation for food safety. Eagle’s x-ray inspection systems are designed to reduce the risk of recalls by finding the Faulty Five contaminants and more.

Did you know that physical contaminants are the second leading cause of recalls in the U.S., just behind undeclared allergens? In 2020, there were 90 recalls linked to foreign materials. In fact, 69% of all USDA meat (672,000 lbs) was affected in recalls which lead to a shortage and caused skyrocketing prices.

While the term “Dirty Dozen” has been used to define 12 food contaminants that pose safety risks and challenges, today we’re calling out the “Faulty Five” common physical contaminants that can be found in food and beverages—glass, calcified bone, metal, rocks/mineral stone and plastic/rubber compounds. Those contaminants were among the many recalls announced in prior years, in products ranging from ice cream to calzones.

Eagle offers x-ray systems that can find and remove these five contaminants in a range of product applications, including challenging items like raw chicken breasts or tall rigid containers. Eagle’s advanced x-ray machines and accompanying next-generation software can be used throughout the production/processing stage and across the food and beverage industry.

Below are ways that x-ray systems protect products from these five types of food contaminants:

1. Glass Contaminants – While some package types have moved from glass to plastic formats, glass still remains a popular choice in products ranging from infant foods to condiments to oils. Given its nature, glass has inherent risks, with the possibility of breakage and contamination. Read this case study to learn how Eagle’s solution for reducing the risks associated with glass, including glass-in-glass contamination, helped one Canadian manufacturer.

2. Calcified Bone  – If you’re processing meat and poultry, you know the possibility of contamination with bone fragments is a real and inherent risk. Bone fragments can also be found in a range of other food products, too, given the ways in which raw materials are grown, harvested and received. With Eagle’s new breakthrough technology, PXT™ (Performance X-ray Technology), our x-ray machines can now detect calcified bone down to 1 mm. Learn more in this bone detection video:

3. Metal FragmentsSeveral recalls have been tied back to the presence of unintended metal fragments. Metal contamination can happen during processing, with broken or damaged equipment, or at other points in the manufacturing and packaging process, such as jewelry and personal effects of line workers. Eagle x-ray systems can detect stainless steel and ferrous and non-ferrous materials in a variety of products, and the machines’ effectiveness are not affected by foil or metalized film packaging. X-ray technology is more versatile than metal detection systems, too, because our machines can also find and reject other foreign materials including plastic, stone, bone and more.

4. Rock/Mineral Stone – Inadvertent contamination with rocks and mineral stones can happen, especially in products that contain raw ingredients that are grown or raised outdoors in fields. X-ray systems can detect small pieces of mineral stone and rock, even in multi-textured foods that can be hard to inspect like pouches of trail mix.

5. Plastic/Rubber Compounds – Food contaminants like rubber and plastic pieces can be introduced throughout the farm to production/plant chain. By using an x-ray system, including systems equipped with Material Discrimination X-ray (MDX) Technology, manufacturers can inspect for plastics in a range of applications, including in bulk and packaged foods with variations in density that can mask such contaminants.

Types of X-ray Detector Technology

You might be wondering, ‘Which x-ray technology is the best choice to find these “Faulty Five” contaminants?’. There are many types of x-ray detectors on the market today, but the right choice depends on many variables, including your production application. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.

Before selecting a technology, it’s important to consider the type of product and the likely contaminants. Single energy x-ray technology gives exceptional levels of detection for stainless steel, ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals. It’s extremely effective in detecting glass, calcified bone, mineral stone and high-density plastics and rubber in products that are homogeneous in texture such as butter or yogurt. It further provides safety and quality assurance at every stage of the production process for raw, bulk, pumped and packaged applications.

However, identifying foreign bodies in products with many density levels can prove more difficult for single energy detectors as the varying densities create ‘busy’ x-ray images. For example, the density variance caused by overlapping stems and leaves in bags of mixed salad leaves makes it difficult for single energy technology to identify contaminants.

Dual energy x-ray technology (MDX) lends itself to inspecting ‘difficult’ or ‘busy’ x-ray images caused by products with high variations in density due to its ability to discriminate materials by their chemical composition. It’s therefore capable of detecting flat glass and stone in multi-textured foods, such as trail mix, cereal and confectionery, or detecting rocks, golf balls and rubber grommets in potatoes something which single energy technology would find more challenging.

PXT™ is the latest advancement for x-ray detection that enables processors to obtain much higher resolution images by capturing more detailed data about the product being inspected than has previously been possible. PXT™ can be used for multiple product application, but where it really shines is bone detection in products like poultry and seafood.

If you are interested in a product analysis for your application or for more information on contaminant detection in food email us at eaglesales@eaglepi.com.

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