How Does Product Packaging, Temperature, Moisture and Salinity Affect Metal Detection?

Food & Beverage
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Part 3: Business Drivers for X-ray Inspection 

There are many effective food inspection methods available for quality control. The decision on whether x-ray inspection is right for your production line is not one to be taken lightly. Eagle experts recognize this fact, and in our blog, we delve into how a product’s packaging material, temperature, moisture and salinity are key drivers to choose x-ray machines for food inspection and metal detection. This is part three of five in the blog series titled, “5 Reasons to Invest in X-ray Inspection for Quality Assurance“.

Packaging that contains metal

In addition to providing unrivalled physical contaminant detection in unpackaged and bulk food products, x-ray machines also inspect packaged products, including those wrapped in foil or metallized film. Tall cartons, loaves of bread with metal ties, and meat chubs with metal clips are all ideal x-ray applications.

Products in metallized film packaging can usually be effectively inspected by metal detection equipment using low-frequency operation (depending on the film thickness), but this can lead to reductions in the level of achievable on-line sensitivity. In some cases, if the metallized film is particularly thick, it is preferable to inspect products prior to packing. By contrast, there is no measurable impact on detection levels using x-ray inspection systems.

Aluminum foil packaging

Aluminum packaging, such as foil wraps and product trays, is a bigger problem for metal detection equipment. Detectors using balanced coil technology are unable to inspect products in aluminum packaging so a different technology, known as ’ferrous-in-foil’ detection, must be used.

X-ray technology provides the best method of inspection when products are packed in aluminum foil. This is because metal detectors struggle to spot contaminants within aluminum foil packaging, while x-ray inspection can see straight through the low-density foil, ensuring a better view of contaminants such as metal, glass, mineral stone and calcified bone within.

Product temperature, moisture and salinity

Product temperature and salinity can both vary during the production process. Variations in temperature have no effect on sensitivity of detection via x-ray inspection. On lines where product temperatures vary, x-ray systems remain stable and maintain a high tolerance on achievable levels of contaminant detection.

Some food inspection systems such as metal detectors are affected by changes in product temperature (and subsequently generate many false rejects). However, x-ray systems with advanced image analysis software generate the absolute minimum of false rejects, which offers increased line efficiencies.

Variations in moisture content also have little or no effect on sensitivity of detection via x-ray inspection. By contrast, this is problematic for other food inspection systems since they typically work on the principles of conductivity.

Many food products, especially salty or acidic ones, or those with a high moisture content, are conductive. When they pass through a metal detector, they can create a disturbance of the detection field. These signals referred to as a ‘product effect’ can be largely eliminated through the use of software algorithms and selection of the correct operating frequency. X-ray machines are not affected by salinity and can therefore better detect and reject contaminants in your food products before they reach customers, protecting your business from costly product recalls.

One example of high product effect is seafood meats as they have conductive properties that can mimic a foreign object. This causes excessive false rejects which increases time for rework and wasted product. Oftentimes, employees on seafood production lines will reduce the sensitivity of their metal detection equipment to avoid a high number of false rejects. This is extremely dangerous as harmful contaminants could be slipping through and end up in a customer’s seafood product which could lead to an expensive, brand-damaging recall.

An x-ray inspection machine is not affected by packaging type, temperature, moisture or salt content. Eagle x-ray equipment is unrivaled in bone and metal detection. Our systems will find poultry bone down to 1 mm and seafood bone down to .5 mm while simultaneously conducting product integrity checks. If you want seamless inspection across your production line, x-ray technology virtually eliminates false rejects with consistent product quality, reduced waste and enhanced yield. Contact us to speak to an Eagle expert about your application.

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