Contamination Recovery for Canned Foods 101 | What to Know

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canned food in a supermarket

Numerous mistakes can happen on the manufacturing line, contaminating your canned foods and placing your customers in danger. Quickly restoring quality after contamination in canned products at your food manufacturing facility is vital to your business’s reputation and success. Below, the team from TDI Packsys discusses what you need to know about contamination recovery for canned foods, including the immediate steps you should take and how you can automate the process using advanced inspection systems for increased product safety.

What Is Contamination Recovery for Canned Foods?

Contamination recovery for canned foods involves a series of steps and guidelines you must follow to remove contaminated products from the shelves and isolate the contamination to prevent further distribution. Canned food contamination remediation may be required after numerous incidents, such as simple can defects indicating bacterial growth, chemical spoilage, over-filled cans, cans with foreign objects, and more. Quickly and thoroughly recovering from contamination in canned foods keeps consumers safe, upholds your business’s reputation, and minimizes losses.

Immediate Steps for Contamination Recovery

worker in protective uniform cleaning food processing plant

When one of your systems or employees detects a contaminated product, for the safety and security of everyone involved, you must immediately begin the contamination recovery process to prevent widespread effects. Here are the basic steps for contamination recovery in canned foods:

1. Cease Production and Distribution

First, you will need to cease production and distribution. You do not yet know what has caused the contamination or which batches have been contaminated. You must stop your cans from hitting the shelves and shift efforts away from production, as you don’t want to increase the size of your potential product recall.

2. Isolate Contaminated Batches

Now, you must isolate the contaminated batches to learn which products were affected and why. To do so, you will need to conduct thorough microbiological, chemical, and physical testing, which we discuss in more depth below. These tests help you locate concerns like improper pH balances, bacterial growth, chemical contamination, can defects, and more.

You will need to test enough cans to locate the cause of the spoilage. In some cases, you may need to test four or five cans, while complex contamination cases can require dozens of cans of testing. Spoilage can happen for numerous reasons, so addressing contamination issues in canned food processing at your facility will be vital to recovering from the incident.

3. Initiate Product Recall

Now that you know which batches were contaminated, you must recall any unsafe products on the shelves. To initiate a product recall, notify the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, then continue working with the compliance office to handle the matter.

4. Notify Regulatory Authorities

The primary regulatory authority you must notify when recalling products is the CPSC, which requires you to immediately submit notifications of products that pose a danger to consumers. If you fail to do so, your manufacturing facility could face civil or criminal charges.

5. Enhance Cleaning and Sanitization

After completing contamination cleanup in canned food production, your facility has likely lost profits but learned a few lessons. Now, you want to prevent this problem from occurring again.

To start, you can enhance your cleaning and sanitation solutions to eliminate potential bacteria or other contaminators from entering your facility. In many cases, though, the culprit of spoiled canned foods stems from malfunctions in the canning process, causing the food to process incorrectly. To prevent such issues, you will need to adopt more intelligent packaging and inspection systems, which we’ll discuss below.

How Can Automated Systems Improve Contamination Recovery for Canned Foods?

empty new cans moving in factory line on conveyor belt

Automated systems can improve contamination recovery for canned foods by locating the problem immediately before multiple batches become contaminated and products hit the shelves. The top automated systems for improved contamination recovery include the following:

Integration of Sensors and Detectors

Automated sensors and detectors can locate numerous contaminants within your canned foods that would typically go unnoticed. For example, at TDI Packsys, our x-ray inspection systems can detect steel, metal, glass, ceramic, stone, plastic, bone, rubber, organic materials, and other foreign objects that shouldn’t be in your products. We also offer vision systems that check the product’s physical labeling and packaging to prevent issues like swelling or denting and checkweighers to ensure none of your cans are under- or overweight, which could indicate improper processing.

Automated Line Stoppers

Automated line stoppers remove contaminated products and stop production to prevent widespread contamination. For example, at TDI Packsys, we offer rejection, separation and orientation systems that automatically divide rejected products from your production line so you can maintain compliance without shutting down all of your operations.

Real-Time Monitoring Technologies

Real-time monitoring technologies inspect products as they move through your production line to ensure absolute consistency and safety, so you can avoid problems before they occur. You’ll be able to see immediate notifications for issues like over-filled items, so you don’t end up with a product recall on your hands.

What Regulatory Standards Govern Contamination Recovery in Canned Foods?

As a canned food manufacturer, you must meet numerous regulatory standards to keep your products safe for consumers.

To start, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provide detailed instructions on how manufacturers should investigate canned food spoilage incidents. For example, the Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM) Chapter 21A offers a detailed pH guide that manufacturers can reference when testing the chemical balances of different types of foods. Module 22. Investigation of Canned Food Spoilage Incidents offers specific information on evidence and causes of contamination.

One of the primary standards your facility must adhere to is its duty to report to the CPSC. Manufacturers have a legal obligation to report any of the following:

  • Defective products that can harm consumers
  • Products that create risks of injury or death
  • Products that do not comply with consumer safety rules
  • And more

How Is Contamination Detected in Canned Foods?

canned food being tested for botulinum

Contamination detection requires three types of testing:

Microbiological Testing

Microbiological spoilage can happen when bacterial spores survive processing, grow in an inadequate environment, or recontaminate the product because of a leak. Bacterial growth can cause potentially fatal concerns like botulism. Microbiological testing may involve microscopic examination for bacteria and cultural tests.

Chemical Analysis

Canned food contamination often stems from improper chemical balances, throwing off the food’s pH balance. Chemical concerns can also cause issues like BPA contamination. Chemical analysis typically involves testing the food’s pH balance, hydrogen swells, water levels, and more.

Physical Inspection Methods

In many cases, physical deformities are the primary signs of contamination. Issues like swelling, denting, bulging, buckling, and leaking immediately display bacterial or chemical imbalances.

Physical inspection involves determining the problem based on FSIS guidelines. For example, a springer can have a bulge on one end that can be pushed down, causing the other end to bulge out.

Is It Safe To Consume Canned Foods After Contamination Recovery?

Yes, it should be safe to consume canned foods after a thorough contamination recovery process, assuming you’ve isolated and removed all contaminated products from your production and distribution lines.

If you want to streamline your facility’s contamination recovery for canned foods, contact TDI Packsys today at (877) 834-6750 to learn more about our automated inspection and packing solutions.

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