Three Steps to Mitigate Food Safety Risks with X-ray inspection

Food & Beverage
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Weighing risks and conducting tests are an important and everyday part of the manufacturing business. When it comes to hazard analysis, how can manufacturers balance allowable errors and production line standards? After defining the threshold for a particular product line and operation, a company can use x-ray systems for the detection and removal of problematic contaminants. Another way to effectively manage risks is through frequent testing that ensures the optimal performance of machinery. Working closely with x-ray experts, manufacturers can select the best machine for their products and operations and make sure that those machines are being run to the best of their capabilities. 

A completely risk-free manufacturing environment is impossible, but at a time when productivity and profitability hinge on smooth, safe operations, food manufacturers must weigh, manage and minimize their risks, including those from physical contaminants. By assessing vulnerabilities and solutions and conducting pre-operational and operational testing, a food or beverage company can tamp down risks that can significantly impact their products and brands.

Step 1: Taking A Balanced Approach 

Weighing risks is at the core of risk management programs. In addition to identifying critical control points as part of HACCP plans, manufacturers can work with experts to assess physical contaminant risks throughout their production line and then determine the most effective ways to manage those risks through x-ray systems. Evaluating risks involves looking at the allowable range of contaminants for each product (i.e., 7 mm for some glass and metal pieces, per the FDA) and also conducting a cost-benefit analysis that examines the cost of not doing inspection at certain points in the line. In addition to taking proactive hazard analysis measures, regulations like the Food Safety Modernization Act are also leading manufacturers to tighten up their inspection and recall thresholds to reduce risk. 

Step 2: Finding the Right System 

After weighing risks and identifying critical control points, food and beverage companies can evaluate x-ray detection and inspection systems that work best to find and remove a wide range of contaminants on their respective lines.

The use of a particular inspection technology is based on key criteria. For example, if you’re trying to mitigate problematic metal, metal detectors may be able to successfully identify that contaminant. If there is a possibility or probability of other contaminants, such as glass, plastic, mineral stone or other foreign material, an x-ray system is more versatile. Variations in densities also impact the choice of an inspection system. Eagle’s dual energy Material Discrimination X-ray Technology (MDX), for example, works well with “busy” images by discriminating between organic and inorganic materials, while single energy systems can be effective in piped products and certain packaged products. Products in tall, rigid containers have a different set of parameters and vulnerabilities that warrant a specific solution for that application.

Eagle’s experts collaborate closely with manufacturers to determine which inspection system meets their needs and to conduct pre-operational testing for a greater degree of certainty about how a machine finds contaminants that exceed the allowable range.

Step 3: Ongoing Testing and Verification 

After x-ray machines are installed, continual testing helps manufacturers ensure that the safety and quality of their final products is up to the set standard. In addition to providing the opportunity for remote testing, Eagle offers detailed test reports that demonstrate and track results, with information on the size of contaminants found and detection speeds. Greater production detail  and improved traceability is also provided via software tools like Eagle’s TraceServer™ that records production data and machine status information. That information is stored in a central database and can be viewed, printed and exported using the provided TraceViewer™ software program.

If 2020 was a year that took the world – and manufacturing industries – by surprise, identifying and managing risks and verifying the efficacy of risk reduction efforts is a prudent way to approach business going forward. Not all risks can be anticipated, but many can and should be.

Christy Draus, Marketing Manager, Eagle Product Inspection

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