Pumped Food – Advantages of Early Food X-ray Inspection

By Kyle Thomas, Strategic Business Unit (SBU) Manager at Eagle Product Inspection

22 July 2016

Let’s face it, food manufacturers and suppliers are pretty savvy at health and safety these days. But how much do they know about contamination of pumped products? If you have pumped products on your line, then keep reading because a lot of manufacturers we’ve spoken to haven’t realized that x-ray inspection can take place while food is being pumped.

At times overlooked, the most important CCP is often at the very beginning of the production process. It’s important to remove contaminants that are resident in the incoming raw or bulk material early on in the process prior to them being blended, mixed, or combined with other ingredients. The material is typically in its most homogenous state and the physical contaminants are at their largest and easiest to find and remove. This prevents them from moving through additional processing, production and packaging stages, which can further break down contaminants, making them more difficult to detect. Further, the later in the process the contaminant is found and removed the higher the cost incurred by the manufacturer including the amount of good product rejected with the contaminated product, the cost of energy, packaging materials and rework.

The pumping stage presents a great opportunity to inspect food as it often has characteristics that favor inspection such as product homogeneity. This relates to the texture and consistency of the product. With products such as jams or yoghurt or meat spreads, you have a nice, uniform consistency. This makes it simpler for x-ray inspection systems to spot physical contaminants; much easier than when additional products have been added such as nuts, grains or sauces.

Pumped Meat and Poultry

Calcified bones are, by far, the most common physical contaminants in pumped meat and poultry, though needles, lead or steel shot from hunters can also manifest. Using x-ray inspection, bones and teeth down to 3 mm and metal down to 0.8 mm can be detected at a typical throughput rate of up to 6 tons an hour. One common challenge with pumped meat and poultry is air bubbles that can trigger a false reject as it mistakes the void created by air for a contaminant. However, simply installing a pressure vacuum pump at the early stage of the production process will eliminate this problem by creating a more homogenous flow.

Slurries, Semi-Solids and Fluids

X-ray is perfect for products that cannot be sieved such as pasta sauces or chunky soups. Physical contaminants can be really diverse but with x-ray inspection, the range is covered including metal down to 0.8 mm, glass and stone down to 3 mm and dense plastics down to 4 mm. With slurries, semi-solids and fluids, there is a high throughput of up to 6 tons per hour, depending on the pump and pipe diameter used, so production speed is not impacted. Rejects are typically removed through a diverter ball valve and can be re-worked if the application allows it.

Eagle Solutions

At Eagle, we offer a range of customized pipeline systems for x-ray inspection of liquids, slurries and solid materials which ensure that pumped foods comply with HACCP principles and retailer food safety requirements. All Eagle x-ray inspection systems incorporate Eagle SimulTask™ imaging software that generates powerful image analysis routines, autolearn functionality for faster product set-up and changeovers, on-screen diagnostics and safety system status visualization. This means that pumped product analysis can run simultaneously, thus providing optimum detection capabilities and minimizing false rejects.

Visit our Pipeline product page for more information.

Download our white paper, “How to Select Critical Control Points for X-ray Systems“.