Why X-Ray Food Inspection Is Critically Important for Food Safety

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chicken nuggets

Food processors need to control and verify the safety of their products or face great risk to their consumers, and to their companies’ futures.

One of these ways is with the use of X-ray food inspection machines.

X-ray food inspection machines are quite versatile—they can find a wide variety of contaminants including metal, bone fragments, stone, glass, rubber and even some plastics. This provides a much greater range of detection than metal detectors, which are used by some food processors for detection purposes.

The Expense of Failure

Many food manufacturers have paid a steep price for failing to use food inspection equipment. A few years ago, metal pieces were found in Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners, resulting in a well-publicized recall of more than 6.5 million boxes. If it wasn’t for Kraft’s sophisticated traceability system, which helped them narrow down the affected products from a much larger quantity, the recall would have been far larger.

That recall was hardly an isolated event. Last August, OSI Industries recalled 4,218 pounds of ready-to-eat beef patty products due to metal contamination. One month earlier, Fairmont Foods recalled 35,145 pounds of ready-to-eat pork and beef gravy products due to contamination from plastic pieces. Just a few weeks before that, Ruiz Foods Products recalled 246,514 pounds of frozen breakfast wraps that were found to be contaminated with small rocks. And one week before that, Tyson Foods recalled 1,760,424 pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip products due to metal contamination.

The Tyson recall occurred only a few months after Tyson had voluntarily recalled 36,000 pounds of chicken nuggets contaminated with pieces of rubber. More alarming than the millions of dollars each of these companies lost from those recalls is how commonplace such issues are: there were 19 USDA-ordered recalls based on “foreign matter” in 2019 alone, and that doesn’t take into account company-initiated recalls such as Tyson’s chicken nugget recall, and the countless issues resolved more quietly.

Many companies are turning to X-ray food inspection equipment to avoid similar issues. After their chicken strip recall last year, Tyson executives announced: “We have discontinued use of the specific equipment believed to be associated with the metal fragments, and we will be installing metal-detecting X-ray machinery to replace the plant’s existing metal-detection system.”

Costco is another company that now relies on X-ray equipment. A few years ago, Costco had big problems with bone in hot dogs. “We were having 15 to 20 broken teeth a month,” said Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president of quality assurance and food safety. After they put in X-ray machines to find bones and cartilage, all of those problems went away.

The Versatility of X-Ray Machines

X-ray food inspection equipment not only helps ensure product is safe from contaminants, but can also be used to study the internal structure of food products for quality purposes. X-ray food inspection systems can detect physical product defects, measure mass, count components, identify missing or broken products, verify fill levels and even inspect the seal integrity of packaging. Many of these things can help companies maintain healthy profit margins by avoiding overfills, product overages and reducing product returns.

How X-Ray Food Inspection Machines Work

As an X-ray enters food it loses some of its electromagnetic energy. If that X-ray encounters a denser area, such as from a metal contaminant, this reduces the X-ray energy further and is shown in the X-ray as a greyscale image. The denser the contaminant, the darker it will appear in the image, which helps in contaminant identification. The technology used in X-ray food inspection is very similar in concept to the X-rays that scan suitcases at the airport but is much more sophisticated and able to scan multiple items per second.

X-Ray Food Inspection Machines are Safe

Food that passes through an X-ray system spends less than one second in the X-ray beam and receives an incredibly low dose of radiation—a dose substantially less than the amount used to irradiate food to kill microbes, and millions of times smaller than anything that is considered a risk. The radiation levels are so low, organic food can be subjected to X-ray food inspection with no change in its stats. The food loses none of its nutritional value.

TDI Packsys and Your Inspection Issues, Solved

At TDI Packsys our X-ray food inspection machines can detect contaminant particulates as small as 0.3mm, which is 25% smaller than our nearest competitor’s machines. We offer a wide range of machines, and we have one that is perfect for your line, even if you are manufacturing and packaging pharmaceuticals, seafood, meat or beverages. With industry-leading accuracy, the ultimate in adaptability and operator safety, and a wide range of machines, we have the X-ray food inspection technology that will protect your company, and your bottom line.

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