Metal Detection in Food Packaging with X-ray: 5 Reasons Why

By Christy Draus, Marketing Manager

1 April 2022

Metal contaminants turn up in food products in a variety of ways—from buckshot in red meat to metal shavings from a machine in the production line. When it comes to metal detection in food packaging, not all inspection systems are created equally. What happens when manufacturers need to detect metal inside metalized packaging?

This article explores the benefits x-ray detection technology offers over other inspection methods, as well as how x-ray equipment can aid compliance with retailers’ specifications by ensuring the safety of products packaged in metalized film pouches.

Metalized film is rising in popularity as a food packaging material due to its ability to increase a product’s shelf life and appearance. Unlike traditional films, such as regular clear barrier packaging, metalized film provides improved moisture, oxygen and UV-light barriers which help keep products fresh. Ideal for stand-up pouches, metalized film is a popular packaging format within the snacks sector for items such as nuts, dried fruits, cookies and crisps, as well as within the wider food industry for items like muesli, stir-in sauces, rice and baby food.

Despite being highly desirable among consumers and retailers, metalized packaging poses product inspection challenges for manufacturers and below are five reasons why choosing x-ray inspection for metalized packaging is best:

1. Better Sensitivity for Metal Detection in Food Packaging

Many manufacturers, especially smaller contract operations, have historically relied on metal detection as a means of inspection. However, metal detectors struggle to meet the specifications required by retailers when inspecting products in metalized packaging. This is because metal packaging creates a large product effect for metal detectors, requiring them to operate at a degraded sensitivity level.

By contrast, metalized film poses no challenges for x-ray inspection systems in any size or format. As the films themselves have very little absorbance value, the x-ray is not affected by the packaging, enabling retailers’ specifications to be met and surpassed with ease. X-ray inspection machines are capable of inspecting a wide range of products packaged in metalized film and offer a better metal detection specification compared to metal detectors.

2. Unrivalled Physical Contaminant Detection

In addition to metal, x-ray inspection systems are capable of detecting glass, mineral stone, calcified bone, and high-density plastics and rubber, regardless of their size, shape or location within metalized packaging.

SimulTask™ PRO is Eagle’s proprietary imaging analysis software that captures x-ray images as products pass through the machines. Despite challenging production line conditions, this advanced software captures data from multiple diodes and harnesses algorithms to interpret and deliver the most exceptional image. With the highest greyscale range of up to 65, 535 values, SimulTask™ PRO shows you a deeper contrast and subtle differences in the images—delivered all within a tenth of a second.

SimulTask™ PRO can simultaneously process several different products with different specifications as it can be programmed with different algorithms to identify different products based on characteristics. Its multilane capabilities and dynamic PRODUCT SWITCH™ feature allows manufacturers the flexibility to inspect a multitude of products on one line with one machine, which means you can do more with less. These unmatched capabilities will lead to improved line productivity.

Some foods packaged in metalized pouches, such as nuts or trail mix, contain high variations in density and finding physical contaminants in these products can prove challenging for traditional x-ray inspection systems as the varying densities create ‘busy’ x-ray images. However, x-ray systems equipped with dual energy x-ray technology such as Material Discrimination X-ray (MDX) deliver enhanced contaminant detection in multi-textured products.

3. Quality Assurance

X-ray inspection systems not only offer unrivalled contamination detection, but market-leading x-ray detection systems can also provide quality assurance for products packaged in metalized pouches by carrying out a number of product integrity checks commonly associated with checkweighers and vision systems.

Unlike metal detectors, x-ray machines are simultaneously capable of measuring mass, inspecting product seals for trapped foods, detecting gross under and overfills and spotting missing components. This makes total cost of ownership and return on investment figures more attractive than single function systems.

4. Regulatory Compliance

As well as helping manufacturers meet Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations, x-ray inspection systems can help achieve certification to a number of Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)-recognized schemes, including Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 Code. X-ray machines can help manufacturers meet the rigorous requirements necessary to achieve regulatory compliance with user tracking features like validation mode for unique login credentials and XML files for data storage that will help to support the audit process.

In order for manufacturers to get their products into large retailers like Wal-Mart or Costco, they have to comply with supplier policies on quality control. Compliance to all the rules and regulations must be met in order to sell in these lucrative markets. Integrating x-ray inspection technology for metal detection in food packaging into a production line is a way manufacturers can demonstrate to their retailer customers and regulatory authorities that they are compliant with the required standards.

5. Improved Data Collection

Contrary to metal detectors, x-ray systems allow manufacturers to save and export valuable production data, as well as save rejected product images for off-line review. These images are tagged with the product name, date, time and reason the product was rejected. By tracking production through every stage, systems are capable of enhancing product traceability and provide manufacturers with due-diligence capabilities.

Eagle’s TraceServer™ software collects this valuable production data and consolidates it into a centralized database that is easily accessible by Operations, Quality and Maintenance personnel. By allowing easy access to reports and statistics on all inspected products, x-ray systems enable swift traceability of physical contamination, and can help importers verify that their suppliers are producing food in a manner that provides the same level of public health protection as required under the other FSMA regulations on preventive controls and produce safety.

If you are interested in learning more about Eagle’s advanced inspection technologies for metal detection in food packaging, contact us here for a quote.