Stone Detection in Food: Preventing Unsafe Contaminants

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raw meat tuna fruits and vegetables

No one wants to open up a package of cereal, meat, or other food products and find pieces of the earth inside it. Stone detection in food is an essential part of modern food safety programs, and production plants need high-quality detection systems to identify any foreign objects.

This guide dives deeper into the threat of stones within food, the danger it presents for consumers, and how product TDI Packsys inspection systems can detect contaminants in food for optimal safety.

Introduction to Stone Detection in Food

It sounds implausible, but finding stone contaminants in food is a reality, especially in products harvested from fields. There is a greater possibility of stray stones in food packages containing nuts, fruits, vegetables, and other raw products that come directly from the earth. Knowing the likelihood of this, it’s essential that food packaging plants invest in high-quality product inspection systems.

Many manufacturing plants utilize heavy-duty metal detectors because they can identify foreign contaminants like shards of aluminum, iron, or steel. However, a machine that only looks for metal may miss a small rock, which can ultimately harm consumers if foods that contain hidden stones end up in stores.

Throwing out food due to contamination contributes to food waste, so stone detection in food is a practice that no supplier can ignore. Learn how this impacts food safety and the best way manufacturers can prevent contamination using specialized machines that use advanced techniques to detect all types of foreign contaminants, including stones in food.

Common Types of Stones Found in Food

small pebbles tiny stones of granite and quartz

Workers at many food packaging plants deal with the same set of contaminants within raw materials. Small pebbles and tiny stones of granite, quartz, and other minerals may end up in food packaging, especially if the product is being harvested from fields.

However, production plants may also find stones in food if their employees aren’t diligent about following proper safety practices. No matter how the stones end up in food, it’s crucial to detect them before they reach the grocery store shelf and potentially harm consumers.

The Dangers of Consuming Stones in Food

Imagine picking up a handful of peanuts and throwing them in your mouth. You’ll likely bite down, expecting nothing but a slight crunch and their delectable, salty taste. When a small pebble ends up in your food, instead of enjoying a simple snack, you may end up at the dentist or emergency room.

Consuming any foreign material presents a major threat, but pieces of rock or stone, in particular, are dangerous for consumers’ health. Because teeth can’t break down the material, people risk severe dental problems and cracked or broken teeth. Another major hazard is choking on the stone when trying to swallow it.

It’s possible that people may even need surgery to remove a stone after ingesting it. Certain demographics are especially at risk for health issues, according to the FDA Health Hazard Evaluation Board. Young infants, elderly people, and surgery patients face the highest level of danger from stones and foreign objects measuring less than seven millimeters.

Techniques for Detecting Stones in Food Products

red apples on conveyor belt in inspection system

Food X-ray systems are instrumental when it comes to contaminant and stone detection in food. These machines feature technology that identifies any foreign material with a higher density than the food product. Since rocks, pieces of metal, and glass shards are fairly dense, a food X-ray machine can alert manufacturers of contamination risks and separate the contaminated item from the rest of the product.

These machines are quite accurate at detecting foreign objects with a higher density, but they are not as efficient at identifying lighter objects like feathers, hair, wood, or insects. Manufacturers may even face challenges with different pieces of the same type of stone because the specific minerals inside can alter the stone’s density.

A major factor in stone detection in food is the product itself — foods that have varying textures and densities within a package can make it harder for X-ray systems to flag stone contaminants.

It’s possible to look for physical stones in food, but because they may be similar to the product in weight, color, and texture, food safety experts prefer to use a powerful food X-ray machine. There are many types of inspection systems on the market, so how can you decide on the right one for your product? A dual-energy x-ray system is ideal for detecting high-density contaminants among heterogeneous products.

Technological Advances in Stone Detection

Stone detection in food has come a long way, and new innovations continue to improve the food packaging industry. One of these advances is the groundbreaking Material Discrimination x-ray technology, or MDX. This modern solution assesses the chemical composition of a product based on the total amount of energy it absorbs when it goes through an X-ray machine.

The ingredients within every food product come with their own atomic numbers, such as 11 for sodium, 19 for potassium, and 20 for calcium. The higher the atomic numbers are, the more x-ray energy that ingredient will absorb. MDX technology effectively calculates the relative ratio of energy that a product absorbs at two different energy levels and uses the chemical composition to detect contaminants instead of relying on density variations.

According to a report from Food Safety Magazine, this technology is already proving effective for many food products and types of packaging. A cereal manufacturer in Poland addressed complaints of glass in their product by implementing this technology, while an American potato manufacturer used MDX technology to detect small stones in the potatoes.

Best Practices for Preventing Stones From Entering Food Products

farmer inspecting his harvested potato

It’s hard to fully eliminate stones from raw food products, but there are a few ways to prevent them from entering food packaging to keep consumers safe. Food suppliers must follow the proper processes to maximize food safety and reduce the chance of product contamination.

This begins with a preliminary visual inspection. The human eye likely won’t detect everything, but it’s a good start at finding twigs, large rocks, or other foreign objects that stick out from the food supply. From there, the harvested goods should pass through an X-ray inspection system.

A high-quality inspection system that uses either dual-energy X-rays or MDX technology can detect traces of stone, glass, metal, and other high-density items. This is a crucial component for eliminating any safety risks from consuming the food and avoiding product recalls. For additional safety purposes, food products can also pass through metal detectors or similar systems, so manufacturers can detect as many potential contaminants as possible.

The food packaging industry relies on the latest technologies for effective stone detection in food. Count on the range of x-ray inspection systems from TDI Packsys to accurately identify small rocks and other harmful contaminants in raw materials like nuts and produce.

Our expertise and innovation help drive the food safety industry forward. Contact us today for more information about our products.

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