Traceability is more than a buzzword—it’s become an expectation in the supply chain. Consumers want to know more about where their food comes from, a 360-degree picture of what they’re eating. Regulators and governments want to ensure a safe food supply, and they’re demanding companies implement a strong food safety culture that can be assessed and validated. Manufacturers are responding to this need for heightened tracking and tracing due to the increased demand from end consumers, oversight organizations and customers down the supply chain. It’s a topic of much discussion, but can true traceability be achieved and where is the technology to make that happen?
In the fall of 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to release their enhanced food traceability rule. A required aspect of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the proposed rule provides a Food Traceability List containing 16 foods that have additional tracking scrutiny attached to them. The list refers to not only the foods specifically listed, but also to any products that contain the listed foods as ingredients.
With all the rules and regulations surrounding food safety, it’s more important than ever to have the ability to trace your products through all stages of manufacturing. In the event of a product recall, x-ray inspection allows you to produce the right documentation for authorities and customers to prove food safety due diligence and, if needed, to isolate any problem and prevent further contaminated products from leaving the facility.
But how does x-ray technology help you do this? High performance x-ray inspection machines perform far more functions than their name suggests, becoming a multi-tasking line of defense within a single machine.
- Reporting: If you have a product recall, most food safety authorities will require that you provide traceability documentation for their investigations. Failure to do so can result in criminal or civil procedures, depending on what country you operate in. With comprehensive reports supplied by modern x-ray inspection machines, you can ensure that your quality control processes are transparent.
- Automatic Reject Mechanisms: By installing automatic reject devices, products containing physical contaminants are instantly removed from the production line and are contained within lockable collection bins, which are controlled by authorized operators. Documentation of the frequency and nature of reject ensure that you can demonstrate full diligence has been conducted and that issues have been resolved effectively.
- Maintenance and Cleaning: Documenting when maintenance has taken place adds to the audit trail providing full traceability and supporting your HACCP program. Regular maintenance ensures your x-ray inspection machines are continually operating at optimum levels while comprehensive cleaning routines safeguard against bacterial build-up, critical for maintaining high hygiene standards
- Testing: As part of your quality management process, regular testing of your x-ray inspection machines, with specific test samples, confirms they are working optimally to detect all types of contaminants within your products. This verifies that your quality control checks are effective. Documentation of these types of tests is essential to prove due diligence has been carried out.
Advanced X-ray Software for Food Traceability
It’s vital for manufacturers and suppliers to keep on top of traceability—which can seem like an insurmountable task—but there is software available that can do this for you. Eagle TraceServer™ proprietary software consolidates all the data from Eagle x-ray machines across your lines into one centralized database. The large amounts of stored production data can then be easily accessed and used to create useful reports to show information about events and trends. This leads to greater visibility of what’s actually happening on the production line. Utilizing the extra information not only drives improvements in efficiencies, but it also helps identify where the contaminants are coming from, helping to prevent the same problems from happening in the future.
An example of this integrated data collection is Canadian manufacturer of pies, cakes and pastries, Boulangerie St-Donat. They strengthened their contamination detection capabilities and dramatically improved their food traceability with Eagle’s Pack 320 PRO with TraceServer™ software. Each product that passes through the x-ray system is tracked and the data is kept in a file. So if they need to search for a past contamination problem, it’s fast and easy to find.
Additional software for food traceability is Eagle’s SimulTask™ PRO, which is installed on every x-ray machine. This advanced imaging software delivers exceptional high-resolution greyscale image processing with up to 65,535 values per image. It can simultaneously perform quality control for multiple products with different specifications on a line while detecting subtle image differences, which provides superior detail resulting in superior detection. SimulTask™ PRO’s intuitive user interface simplifies product set-up to facilitate changeover, reduce downtime and impart flexibility for the product inspection process. It also includes various operator login levels that allow access rights only to designated users to prevent operator error and enhance security.
Food Traceability through Every Stage of Production
The possibility for contamination or issues arising with food quality can happen at any stage of production. X-ray technology is a solution capable of detecting and rejecting contaminants, while simultaneously providing additional quality checks to meet production requirements for count, mass, size, shape or other attributes.
Furthermore, x-ray software is capable of storing information on products for traceability purposes at every stage:
- Raw Material and Ingredients: Since ingredients and raw materials arrive at manufacturing plants from multiple vendors and sources, it’s crucial to implement contaminant detection before further processing. An Eagle x-ray system scans incoming materials to capture data on what, when and by whom the product was inspected.
- In Process: Contaminants are often introduced in process on the manufacturing or processing line, like during mixing or filling. X-ray systems scan products and record if they’ve passed validation. The advanced software that powers Eagle’s x-ray systems identifies the employee operating the machine at the time of inspection.
- Packaged Items: To make sure end consumers receive contaminant-free products in their desired form, place an x-ray system towards the end of the line. X-ray can scan packaged or boxed products across a variety of product types and stand as a last line of defense before your product goes out the door.
X-ray inspection software integrated into your production line helps you stay compliant. Managers can easily access statistics and reports on inspected products while its verification tools assist compliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles and global safety regulations. Enhanced productivity and reduced downtime are additional benefits to adopting x-ray inspection. Color-coded tags and locations make it easier for operators to identify product defects, reducing rework time and increasing the quality of finished products. SimulTask™ PRO provides on-screen self-diagnostics for ease of maintenance and rigorous quality control. Additionally, its ability to simultaneously inspect different products without the need for manual changeovers minimizes wasted production time.
Talk to an expert, if you are interested in learning more about x-ray inspection technology and how it can help your line.