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Achieve a higher level of food safety with Selectscan metal detection

12 October 2020

Advancements in foreign object detection are pushing the boundaries of detectable contaminant type and size in support of better food safety. At the same time, new solutions are responding to the needs of food processors to more easily document and store records and make technology easier to use. As food manufacturers adapt to the new realities in food processing, product inspection solutions are more flexible and provide a higher level of brand protection. 

Food safety, product quality and brand protection are of foremost concern to food processors. Meeting the needs of consumers in a fast-paced market with increasing levels of uncertainty has underscored the importance of a smooth running and safe supply chain. It begins with the ability to efficiently and effectively ensure the quality and safety of food products entering the manufacturing line, including inspection for microbiological contaminants and foreign objects. 

Rapid changes in supply requirements have great impact on processing lines in the short term and necessitate that food processors reconfigure or plan for greater flexibility in their inspection process. For example, one factor that could impact lines includes changes in package sizes as needs shift from large food service and institutional packages to at-home and single-serve packages. 

The trend to shipping-friendly packaging, which was already underway as large consumer products companies strive for economical and ecological improvements, is expected to continue to provide lightweight yet strong packages home delivery.  Consumers may be slow to retreat from a stock up mentality which could continue the trend toward seeking out “middle of the store,” shelf-stable, economical food products. Some manufacturers have limited the number of stock keeping units (SKUs) they produce to reduce time-consuming product changeover yet maintaining high throughput of selected products at the expense of consumer choice. 

Arguably producers and consumers are benefiting from the compliance requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act which went into effect in 2011. It drove a shift from reactive to proactive food safety measures. More recently, software-based recordkeeping and traceability have become integral to many food safety programs. Equipment manufacturers have also addressed the need for modernized, faster and easier user interfaces as food manufacturers transition to more automation resulting in the need for fewer skilled workers. It is expected that process improvements to ensure food safety will continue, with further innovation and greater discipline at every stage in the supply chain. 

Food inspection technology manufacturers are responding with new inspection solutions to better detect metal foreign objects – the most common contaminant type – to help food processors achieve the detection parameters they need and to meet the increasing number of inspection compliance programs that retailers are requiring to do business with their suppliers. 

Food metal detection challenges
Historically, metal detection technology has been a workhorse for the food industry despite its well-known and inherent limitations. The core principle of operation for food metal detectors is that a transmitter excites a signal as food contaminated with metal transverses the aperture, in turn triggering a detection. In practice, the signal created by the food itself, known as product effect, can mimic a contaminant, necessitating that the detector be able to distinguish actual metal from product effect. Failure to distinguish actual metal from product effect. Failure to distinguish the product from metal can result in costly false rejections or product escapes. 

Additionally, food plant environments present their own challenges: moisture, vibrations and other environmental factors can interfere with accurate metal detector performance. The device must also log setup changes and store performance statistics for documentations as part of a larger, holistic view of a company’s food safety program in the event of a problem.

The Selectscan solution 
Selectscan technology enables food processors to have an easy way to rapidly identify the single best frequency for an application. It tunes out product effect and adapts results to account for temperature changes and EMI. At the same time it provides the documentation of results from each production run. It is a completely new and holistic approach.

Selectscan can find metal foreign objects up to 25% smaller in volume than previous single-frequency technology. 

Selectscan has many automated features that would otherwise require programming by a skilled operator or technician. Central to Selectscan is the Autolearn feature. Autolearn takes the guesswork out of optimizing performance. Using an intuitive, on-screen wizard, a user is guided through a streamlined setup that can be accomplished in minutes. The result is an operating frequency capable of detecting the smallest metal contaminants tailored to a specific application. 

Metal detector users know that different frequencies typically work better for different applications. Selectscan can detect across a full range of frequencies from 50 to 1000 kHz. Applications like potato chips or cheese may require a low frequency to tame the signal created by the conductive salt content, while a higher frequency may work best to detect stainless steel in a mineral-rich vegetable. by the metal packaging, while a high frequency may work best to detect stainless steel in a mineral-rich vegetable. 

Advancements in foreign object detection technology are pushing the boundaries of detectable contaminant type and sizes in support of better food safety, flexibility and operational efficiency.  The best way to determine the right fit for an application is by having the manufacturer conduct a product test. 

To learn more about product inspection solutions from Thermo Fisher Scientific visit

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