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Embracing inspection best-practices

20 October 2019

Find out how a corn tortilla producer has overcome ‘product effect’ and false reject problems and at the same time increased its product detection capabilities. 

Catallia Mexican Foods, LLC is a US-based producer of premium flour and corn tortillas. Food safety is a vital consideration – across all levels of the business, as Dan Gooch, Catallia’s director of operations, explains: “Our reputation is an extension of our customer’s reputation – and that’s why we are committed to going above and beyond what’s required when it comes to the industry’s quality and food safety standards.” 

Catallia began inspecting tortillas for metal foreign objects to ensure it complied with critical control point (CCP) requirements to ensure product quality and safety for consumers. The company soon realised it needed a different type of solution because manufacturing tortillas presented unique metal detection challenges. For example, when the production line needed to be stopped the product temperature would lower and trigger false rejects in the metal detector due to product effect – the product mimicking a foreign object to the detector. “Our operators would need to adjust the equipment for the rework, and then adjust it back for normal production, wasting time and requiring additional operator training,” said Gooch. Another problem was that seemingly small changes to the product or the environment, like a folded over tortilla, would cause false rejects with the metal detectors. 

In addition to the production process and product effect challenges, customers were requiring more sensitive detection capabilities and the ability to detect non-metallic contaminants – such as stone or plastic – to ensure product safety and avoid legal, regulatory, financial and reputational consequences. This sort of mandate is becoming increasingly common among retailers.

Catallia found a solution with the entry-level Thermo Scientific NextGuard X-ray Detection System. In addition to the food safety benefits of finding smaller and more varied types of foreign objects, the solution improved productivity by minimising false rejects, line stoppage and rework associated with product effect. 

For the production lines that didn’t require X-ray inspection, the limitations associated with conventional metal detection still needed to be solved. Catallia had the opportunity to become a beta tester of a new metal detection technology platform that overcomes the limitations of fixed single or dual-frequency metal detectors. The first-of-its-kind multi-frequency metal detection technology called multiscan provides sensitivity and a high probability of detecting metal foreign objects. Available in the Thermo Scientific Sentinel Multiscan metal detector, multiscan scans up to five user-selectable frequencies at the same time, preventing escapes and false rejections caused by product effect. According to Gooch, it has allowed Catallia to improve detection and reduce false rejects regardless of product orientation, temperature and plant conditions. An added benefit is the low-cost of ownership associated with metal detection. 

Maintaining commitment
The addition of X-ray inspection enabled Catallia to find more and smaller foreign objects and overcome challenges associated with product effect. X-ray inspection has enabled it to detect contaminants as small as 0.8 mm for all metals. This is due to the homogenous nature of tortillas and the relatively low density, even of large multipacks.

For its production lines using metal detection, Catallia has been able to improve detection from its spec limits of 2, 2.5, 3mm (Fe/non-Fe/SS) by upwards of 25% using the Sentinel metal detector. Based on these results, the company plans to upgrade other metal detectors on its lines. 

“By embracing product inspection best practices with the help of Thermo Fisher Scientific, we are able to produce a quality product that customers will want to buy and that they can trust will help protect their consumers and their brand image,” concluded Gooch. 

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