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Plastics – the Achilles heel of X-ray inspection?

31 July 2016

Over the last five years X-ray inspection systems in food processing have grown in popularity as their capabilities improve and their prices become more affordable.  However, Will Anderson, head of product development & marketing at BST Detectable Products, points that, because X-ray inspection is all about comparative density, detecting small plastic contaminants of low density can pose problems. 

“Plastic can pose problems for food processors,” said Anderson.  “Just check out all the recent headlines and recalls due to plastic contamination.” 

Notable incidents include the Europe wide Mars recall (plastic contamination) and the Perdue Foods LLC Chicken Nugget recall in the USA (plastic contamination). Indeed the Food Standards Agency has recently released a report which shows a 13% increase in foreign body contamination incidents between 2014 and 2015.

Plastic is difficult to detect with X-ray inspection and impossible to detect with metal detectors. Anderson suggests that detectable plastics can offer a good solution. Detectable plastics were first developed for compatibility with metal detection. Food grade ferrous-based additive is blended with base polymer to give a product with all the benefits of plastic, but with the safety of metal detectability. This paved the way for detectable pens, scoops, scrapers and buckets.

“X-ray presents a different challenge, which was identified and acted upon in 2009 by BST Detectable Products, when we reformulated our plastic to XDETECT – to create the world’s first dual detectable plastic. 

The challenge for X-ray visible plastic is to increase the density of the plastic without affecting its natural mechanical properties. XDETECT material has met this challenge and today it is used in a wide variety of applications to help ensure that any foreign body contamination does not make it past the inspection processes.

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