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Ensuring potato product quality

26 August 2019

The wide detection capabilities of X-ray inspection technology has enabled a ready-to-cook potato manufacturer to achieve high food quality and safety standards. Food Processing reports. 

Quik’s Potato Products produces a range of added-value potato dishes including potato wedges with garlic, new potatoes with sea salt and rosemary, and gratin potatoes with grated cheese. The company uses no additives and preservatives in its products, which makes it vital that product is always processed on a ‘right first time’ basis to maximise its retail shelf-life.

To help it achieve this goal the company has specified the use of Ishida IX X-ray inspection technology to enable it to identify foreign bodies, including metal and stones in aluminium trays. Prior to the installation of this solution, Quik’s had used a metal detector to maintain quality standards. While this helped to ensure there were no foreign bodies in the products from equipment used during the manufacturing and packing processes, it was not able to carry out detection in the aluminium trays that the company was increasingly using. 

In addition, the original raw potatoes can contain stones and other contaminants which, despite rigorous inspections at harvesting, may occasionally remain in the product after processing. These could not be identified using metal detection.

The Ishida X-ray inspection system uses a patented Genetic Algorithm (GA) technology, which enables the machine to be ‘trained’ in the most common types of quality issues that it is looking for to deliver maximum detection sensitivity and reliability.  

At Quik’s Potato Products, it is able to spot contaminants down to 0.6mm in size, well within the BRC minimum standard of 3mm. The machine is flexible in its detection capabilities and can be adjusted according to the different products it is handling.  For example, for a product containing a peppercorn sauce, the GA can be tuned to avoid the machine identifying each peppercorn as a contaminant while simultaneously enhancing the detection capability for other foreign bodies.

Another example of the versatility of the X-ray machine is its ability to identify foreign bodies from the ground, particularly small stones. In addition, some potatoes are harvested on reclaimed land, which sometimes contains drainage pipes that have been broken up by tractors during ploughing. As the pipe pieces are a similar colour to the potatoes, they can be missed by the camera inspection systems of the bulk product but will subsequently be picked up by the Ishida X-ray.

Current production speeds are governed by the filling equipment with the X-ray machine handling up to 30 trays per minute. However, the machine is capable of speeds in excess of 100 trays per minute, giving wide scope for future speed increases. Changeovers between Quik’s wide range of products are easy with each product specification being pre-set and called up at the touch of a button.  

The hygienic design of the machine was important for Quick’s to meet its strict hygiene standards. The conveyors and belts are manufactured to IP-66 and the main body to IP-65 regulations, and the design offers easy, tool-free access to all parts for quick cleaning. 

Commenting on the solution, Henri van Hemert, quality engineer at Quik’s Potato Products, said: “Versatility, size and ease of use were the prime reasons for the selection of this X-ray inspection system. We looked at other models but any that had similar capabilities were too big to fit into our existing line, while the smaller models were not accurate enough. As an existing user of Ishida multihead weighers and checkweighers, we were also confident of the performance and reliability of the machine.

“Quality is an overriding requirement throughout our operation and the X-ray machine is a vital part of ensuring we deliver the best possible products to our customers.”

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