In 2017, over 9 million pounds of food products were recalled because of extraneous material, which was more than the amount recalled for any other reason. In addition, in Q1 of this year, foreign material was the top cause of recalled FDA units — the first time it has held that title since 2016.
In March at the FPSA Annual Conference, a food safety panel discussed the problem of foreign material contamination and offered some ideas for how OEMs can design their equipment to help processors solve it.
The best way to avoid a recall due to foreign materials is to keep those materials out of food products. This requires vigilance every step of the way, from ensuring ingredient suppliers have controls in place to monitoring processes from start to finish.
Several technologies are available to detect foreign matter. According to Richard Hebel, a product manager at Eagle Product Inspection, the three that work the best are metal detectors, imaging systems, and x-ray inspection. Hebel told Meat+Poultry:
“Metal detectors are the cost-effective solution for metallic foreign material, which is also their limitation. Imaging systems provide detection of foreign material on exposed surfaces of meat. The most enhanced of the three technologies is x-ray inspection, which allows foreign-body detection capable of inspecting for metallic and non-metallic contaminants and presents an adequate density difference to the meat before rejecting the substandard product.”
However, these technologies are not enough. Even with them, some materials — like plastic — remain difficult to detect, and processing equipment that’s not designed to prevent foreign material contamination can end up contributing to the problem.
The panel emphasized that when it comes to controlling foreign materials, processors cannot do it alone. By designing their equipment to minimize risk, OEMs can partner with processors to keep foreign materials out of food.