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Safeguarding pumped products

08 August 2016

Daniela Verhaeg offers a cost-saving solution for multi-contaminant inspection of pumped products. 

Food manufacturers are under pressure today to produce more for less, streamlining operating costs to protect profit margins and remain competitive in a globalised market place while also ensuring that consumers are provided with safe food.  

To provide the high quality products demanded by todays more knowledgeable consumer manufacturers need to ensure optimum food safety for their pumped foods through the use of x-ray inspection technology. Traditionally, such inspection machines are installed at the end of a production line to inspect finished products for contamination before they leave the factory. This allows producers to comply with the food safety legislation in effect in their sector, while also ensuring optimum food quality. 

However, when it comes to pumped products, inspecting earlier in the production process at the pumping stage can offer benefits. This is because the product in question is more homogenous in texture and density, making foreign bodies easier to detect. It also means that contaminated product is removed from the production line before further value is added through processing and packaging – reducing manufacturing costs and cutting waste. 

At the same time, manufacturers face a number of challenges in order to ensure optimum food safety for pumped products. There are a host of factors that need to be taken into account to optimise foreign body detection rates – one factor is the density of the product. In order to be detectable by x-ray inspection, a foreign body has to be denser than the surrounding product. The less dense the contaminant compared to the product, the harder it will be to detect. 

Product homogeneity also needs to be considered when undertaking product inspection. A product with differing density – such as a sauce with chunks of vegetables or minced meat – can present a more complex and varied greyscale image than a homogenous product, such as smooth fruit purée. Products with varying densities can make it more challenging to detect contaminants without the use of specialist software. 

In addition to the issues of detection precision, manufacturers also need to consider the impact on line productivity of the chosen product inspection machine. The solution needs to be capable of accurate inspection even at high flow rates. At the same time, it must also support rigorous cleaning regimes, product changeovers, and regular testing procedures with minimal downtime to maximise efficiency for operatives and the business. 

Mettler-Toledo Safeline X-ray's X38 is suitable for pumped food product applications, including liquids, slurries and pastes. A single vertical x-ray beam optimises detection capabilities for contaminants such as calcified bone, glass shards and metal filings within a range of common pumped foods, from processed meat and poultry, to vegetables, jams, syrups and preserves at a flow rate of up to 14 tonnes per hour. Designed according to the principles of the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG) it also features IP69 rated stainless steel casing with sloping surfaces and rounded edges to reduce bacteria traps and allow water to run off more easily. 

To reduce any product waste, it is important to have timely and accurate opening of the rejection mechanism to ensure removal of the contaminated product with minimal product waste. Manufacturers need to consider the benefits of a solution which has an automatic testing facility option, where a mechanism within the pipe moves a small contaminant sample into the path of the x-ray beam. This can help eliminate the need to manually insert a test piece into the pipework, simplifying testing procedures and reducing downtime. 
Daniela Verhaeg is marketing manager for Mettler-Toledo Safeline X-ray.

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