Physical Contaminant Prevention in the Food Industry: Q+A With Industry Insiders

June 5, 2024 | food safety, contamination detections in food

Physical Contaminant Prevention in the Food IndustryContaminant inspection is a critical element of any food safety program.

Identifying and removing foreign material helps reduce production waste, improves customer confidence, and protects valuable machinery.

This blog illustrates the role of contaminant inspection in preserving consumer safety, product quality, and brand integrity by offering answers to common questions and sharing insights from industry experts.

Q: Why is Physical Contaminant Prevention Critical?

Physical contaminant detection is crucial to preventing consumer injury, maintaining operational continuity, and preserving brand integrity.

According to FMI, The Food Industry Association, and the Consumer Brands Association, the average cost of a food product recall is $10 million, which doesn’t include losses in sales due to brand reputation damage and loss of customer loyalty.

Incorporating metal detection and X-ray inspection into a safety program empowers food and beverage manufacturers to:

  • ensure product safety;
  • avoid financial, legal, and reputational damages associated with a product recall; and
  • meet retailers’ requirements for contaminant inspection programs.

Physical contaminants in foods pose a significant health risk to consumers. Foreign materials also put manufacturing equipment “health” at risk of damage that can result in costly production downtime. Luckily, physical contamination is the easiest type of safety hazard to prevent, making it a highly effective investment.

Perhaps that’s why many retailers require their vendors to incorporate metal detectors and X-ray inspection systems into their production lines.

“Implementing food safety measures can help brands and food manufacturers prevent potential product recalls, legal action, and reduce financial risk.”

- OFI Weight and Inspection Solutions

Q: What Types of Physical Contaminants are Found in Food Manufacturing?

Food and beverage products are uniquely susceptible to physical contamination. From harvesting to packaging, there are countless opportunities for a variety of materials to find their way into a product, including:

  • Metal (ferrous, non-ferrous, stainless steel)
  • Glass
  • Stone
  • Ceramics
  • PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) and other dense plastics
  • Bone

Prevention and detection of contaminants is essential to ensure product quality and consumer safety.

"Some customers, when using foreign material detection systems for the first time, are surprised at the outcome of the inspection – excessive foreign materials are detected. This leads them to reevaluate their internal processes to improve consumer safety."

- Wildcat Packaging

Q: What Standards Do Food Manufacturers Need to Follow?

An organization’s approach to ensuring food safety can differ based on geography, industry, and product variety. Among the many quality and safety standards that manufacturers may choose or be instructed to follow, there are several fundamental programs of note, including:

  • IFS, International Featured Standards, is a unified control standard for quality and safety systems that applies to all levels of food production and processing. It requires a company’s food safety management system to be a fully implemented, systematic, and comprehensive HACCP-based plan, following the Codex Alimentarius principles and any legal requirements of the production and destination countries that may go beyond these principles.

  • BRCGS (formerly BRC), Brand Reputation through Compliance Global Standards, is an international GFSI benchmarked set of standards for food safety, packaging materials, storage and distribution, consumer products, agents and brokers, retail, gluten-free, plant-based, and ethical trading that outline good manufacturing practice and ensure product safety, quality, and compliance.

  • ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 22000 outlines the requirements for a food safety management system (FSMS) and defines how an organization demonstrates its ability to control food safety hazards and confirm food is safe for consumption.

Implementing effective inspection measures significantly contributes to maintaining integrity and trust in the food supply chain.

“Rigorous quality control improves brand reputation and customer satisfaction; implementing food safety measures can protect against and prevent potential product recalls, legal, and financial risks.”

- Ibercassel

Q: What is the “Zero Contaminant” Philosophy?

“Every food processor is striving to reach a point of ‘zero contamination.’ While it may seem impossible to reach this milestone, advancing technologies and a growing commitment to food safety practices means we are getting closer to this milestone, which benefits brands and consumers alike.”

- Chandler Automation

A zero contaminant philosophy is a holistic approach to eliminating the introduction of foreign materials at every stage of food and beverage production. This philosophy elevates traditional preventive measures such as hygiene and sanitation, quality control, and regulatory compliance with advanced detection systems such as metal detectors and X-ray inspection machines.

Adopting this powerful philosophy demonstrates an organization’s commitment to consumer safety by emphasizing a program’s strength rather than relying on a single system’s sensitivity.

Q: How Does a “Zero Containment” Focus Benefit Food Manufacturers?

Control fosters confidence, especially when it comes to food quality and safety.

“Being able to count on reliable and efficient control equipment puts food producers in a position to produce with greater confidence in terms of risk assessment; manufacturers can increase their hourly production capacity because they are confident in effective quality control.”

- Procontrol

A zero contaminant focus creates a process-wide emphasis on safety and quality. Contaminant inspection programs strengthen these initiatives by helping manufacturers mitigate the threat of foreign materials, increasing process predictability, efficiency, and consistency while minimizing downtime and risk to consumer health.

Focusing on consumer safety also enhances brand reputation and trust, instills retailers’ confidence in their producers, and advances consumer satisfaction.

Q: Why is it Important to Spread Awareness About Food Safety Within the Industry?

Increasing food safety begins with growing awareness of the threat of foreign contaminants in food products. By sharing information, ideas, and experiences, manufacturers and contaminant inspection experts can drive innovation and elevate industry standards for food and beverage safety.

"It is important to create consistency and meet expectations for both manufacturers and consumers. This helps to reduce risk and promote quality products while meeting regulatory compliances. It also allows for consumers to maintain trust in food products and prevent harmful incidents."

- Creative Packaging Solutions

Metal detection and X-ray inspection are quintessential additions to food and beverage safety programs. Both provide continuous inspection and reliable elimination of physical contaminants in food and beverage products fulfilling the following for you:

  • consumer health protection,
  • regulatory compliance,
  • brand protection,
  • risk mitigation, and
  • cost savings.

Choosing the right inspection system for your application, however, requires analyzing several factors, such as product composition, processing parameters, packaging materials, and the type(s) of contaminants you’re inspecting for.

It is also crucial to continuously perform system testing and maintenance. Challenging your inspection equipment verifies optimal operation and validates your inspection program. Third-party certifications are essential as they provide unbiased performance and regulatory compliance assessments. Outside evaluations are recommended at least once per year.

By prioritizing food safety awareness, we can create a safer food supply chain for everyone.

CASSEL Inspection: Reducing Foreign Materials in the Food Industry

A global leader in contaminant inspection technology since 1994, CASSEL Inspection understands industry-specific environments, challenges, and regulatory requirements and advocates for product inspection for food and beverage applications.

"CAS-Infographic-Critical-ProcessImplementation of product inspection systems from raw material intake to finished product packaging is essential at critical control points (CCPs),” notes Gianfranco Rubini, EMEA Commercial Leader at CASSEL Inspection. “It aids in eliminating, or reducing to an acceptable level, the health and safety risks related to foreign material contamination.”

CASSEL offers a uniquely broad range of metal detection, X-ray inspection, and checkweigher systems readily tailored to fit the needs of a given product or process. For example, combining customized inspection systems such as a metal detector with a checkweigher provides multiple solutions in a single unit that conserves space and streamlines operational control.

"CASSEL Inspection units meet and at times exceed customer requirements and industry standard requirements. Their continued research and development along with support are key factors of the successful growth in this market."

- Creative Packaging Solutions

CASSEL is also a powerful resource for news, education, and advice related to contaminant inspection. From learning more about the impact of food contamination on brands to getting answers to questions about applying inspection technology to your unique process, CASSEL Inspection has the solutions you need to elevate your safety and quality program.