When thinking of metal detectors, the majority of people immediately think of security lines and luggage scanners. It’s not common that we’d think of metal detectors for the food industry, yet, as it is, they are gaining huge ground and growing in popularity for manufacturers of food products and packaging. This surge in demand is FDA initiated, as putting the consumer’s safety first is becoming an even more emphasized regulation to follow. In addition to consumer safety, companies want to ensure they’ve also covered themselves when it comes to lawsuits and their reputation for clean products.
What are the FDA Metal Detection Standards?
The FDA is really cracking down on contaminants in food products, and the reason for this is, as mentioned, to protect the consumer. Seeing as so many cases have been found, resulting in expensive recalls and lawsuits, the FDA has implemented metal detection standards to ensure the same principles are followed for all companies. The FDA’s Health Hazard Evaluation Board has outlined that metal fragments 0.3 inch – 1 inch (or 7mm – 25mm) in length are unacceptable if found in any products. And any foreign object less than 0.3 inch (7mm) can cause serious injury to people in special risk groups, such as infants, surgery patients and the elderly. Any foreign objects found in food products will be considered adulterated, and therefore unsafe.
Foreign objects, such as metals, can enter the food products from metal blades used for cutting, wires from mesh belts used to convey products, washers, nuts and bolts from mixing, cooling and dispensing machines, injection needles etc. The FDA requires the following steps to be taken and considered when dealing with metal inclusion:
- Understand the Potential Hazard – take account of all the possible problems that can occur in your production facility, including those metal parts that we have outlined above. Identify the points where this can occur and ensure all hazards are accounted for.
- Determine Whether the Potential Hazard is Significant – will the hazards that were outlined affect or come into contact with the product at this stage of development? Is the hazard at a FDA-passable level or should it be eliminated?
- Identify Critical Control Points – critical control points need to be set up in order to check the product at specific stages of production, especially once it has passed through a stage that has used potentially loose or breakable metal machinery. Checking at periodic stages helps understand where the problem lies, and can help rectify the issue faster.
- Develop a Control Strategy – how will you maintain control? Lead with 2 scenarios – metal has been detected, or no metal has been detected. For each of these scenarios, develop a plan that ensures removal of the metal, proper checks that the machine may have missed, and a strategy for control.
Types of Contaminants
Industrial metal detectors manufacturers have created detectors that can pick up three main types of metals in food. These are ferrous, nonferrous and stainless steel.
Ferrous metals are both magnetic and conductive, making them very easy to detect. These metals are the most commonly eradicated type.
Non-ferrous metals are not magnetic but they are conductive, allowing them to be detected aslo quite easily.
Stainless steel is amongst the hardest metal to be picked up by sensors. They are both not magnetic or conductive, and additionally, when the product is wet or has a high salt content, the detection becomes even harder.
Types of Metal Detectors for the Food Industry?
There are different types of metal detectors that are used in the food industry and they have different functions and things that they look for. These types of machines are designed to inspect products for any present metal contaminants in the food. With the flexibility of being used as a standalone unit or integrated into a larger packaging line, these machines have multiple product memory and data storage for optimal long-term use.
Search Heads – ideal for fruit packages, cereals, meats, yogurts, sweets and bread.
Conveyor Based Systems – ideal for fruit packages, cereals, meats, yogurts, sweets and bread.
Pipeline for Pumped Products – ideal for soups, sauces, jams and dairy.
Vertical Fall or Gravity Feed – ideal for coffee beans, powders, and granules.
Following the strictly outlined standards set by the FDA is the right step in ensuring food and consumer packed goods safety for all. Technology is becoming better and better, allowing companies to easily integrate machinery into their already working factories in a seamless way. By following the guidelines, suggestions and regulations outlined by the FDA and Health Hazard Evaluation Board, businesses not only optimize their metal and contamination detection, keeping their consumers safe, but they also ensure that their brand remains untarnished with a spotless reputation for safety standards.