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Adding metal detection into all areas of a supply chain

03 April 2020

Consumer safety should be one of the highest priorities for all food manufacturers. While there is risk of contamination from foreign bodies throughout the entire supply chain it often falls to the final processor/manufacturer to invest and protect the consumer from this danger. 

However, due in part to retail codes of practice, there is an argument for adding metal detection earlier in a product or ingredients’ journey to the consumer. 

Contaminants can get into a product in any number of ways. They could come from the farm tools used to collect the raw product, from transportation devices such as packaging or conveyor systems, or cutting devices during processing. Being able to detect contaminants at each stage could help reduce product losses by decreasing the amount of waste being created. 

The Codes of Practice vary from retailer to retailer, although there are many similarities. Some, for example, specify that the production line must be shut down ‘if more than one metal contaminant is found (through detection or observation) on any one production line within any 24-hour period’. Any periods of production downtime can result in a significant financial loss for many factories, so having contamination protection measures in place earlier in the supply chain, could offer benefits.

Industrial metal detectors rely on a magnetic field which is disturbed when a contaminated product passes through, alerting staff with an alarm and either stopping the belt for the contaminated product to be removed or pushing the contaminated product into a bin to the side of the conveyor. This is a good method to detect ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless-steel particulates which can be impossible for the naked eye to see. 

Advice from Pete Higgins, technical sales director at Metal Detection Services is that it is important choose the right solution for the product being inspected. He says it is also important to specify the correct size machine to enable the highest sensitivity levels to be achieved. The ratio of the aperture size to the size of the product being inspected is very important. The weakest part of the magnetic field in a metal detector is in the geometric centre of the aperture so this is where the detector should be tested with the smallest test samples it can detect. There are metal detectors available which can use more than one frequency at the same time –multi-spectrum metal detectors – and while this option would be a higher initial investment cost, it would be the most sensitive detector. 

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