What Should Be Included in an X-Ray Inspection Checklist?

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supervisor technician writing x ray inspection checklist

Facilities involved in food manufacturing, processing, and packaging that utilize x-ray inspection systems should create a thorough checklist to ensure safe and effective operations and comply with regulatory standards. Organizations that fail to create and follow a comprehensive checklist can face a host of consequences, ranging from food contamination to fines and enforcement actions.

This article outlines what should be included in an x-ray inspection checklist, including important safety measures to be considered and how to integrate new technology.

Importance of an X-Ray Inspection Checklist

An x-ray inspection checklist is a critical tool for operators and quality assurance personnel to conduct thorough assessments of on-site equipment. Following a step-by-step checklist can help identify equipment issues and maintain your brand’s food safety standards. Further, periodic inspections may be required due to regulatory guidelines by various state and food safety agencies.

Because the primary function of food x-ray inspection systems is to identify contaminants and quality issues, having fully functional and accurate equipment is essential. Further, companies should maintain x-ray inspection documents for record-keeping, traceability, and audit purposes. If an issue does arise related to a product safety concern or recall, these inspection records can be vital in tracking where things could have gone awry.

What Are the Primary Components of an X-Ray Inspection Checklist?

technician checking x ray inspection system

Though the key points for x-ray inspection checklists may vary based on state and local regulations, as well as the target industry, creating an x-ray inspection checklist will typically involve the following:

Equipment Calibration and Maintenance

All industrial machines, including x-ray food inspection systems, should undergo regular calibration checks to ensure that the equipment is accurately detecting the presence of contaminants and measuring applicable data points.

In addition to routinely calibrating equipment, maintenance should also be scheduled. The tasks on this checklist should include cleaning, lubricating, and replacing parts as needed. Before ordering physical maintenance, the checklist should also include steps to verify that critical components like tubes, detectors, conveyor belts, and reject mechanisms are functioning properly.

Operator Training and Certification

An x-ray inspection protocol is only as effective as the humans behind it. Therefore, training the personnel responsible for both initiating the checklist and operating the x-ray equipment is vital for safety and compliance.

Businesses may require that key personnel be certified in operating and maintaining the equipment, and they may schedule ongoing training to keep operators abreast of the latest technologies, best practices, and changes to laws and regulations.

Radiation Safety Measures

Steps for effective x-ray inspection will inevitably include robust radiation and safety measures to minimize exposure and mitigate risks for operators and food handling personnel. This should include inspecting any protective gear and lead-lined enclosures.

In addition to inspecting physical equipment, any programs that measure radiation levels should also be checked to ensure they are in compliance.

Image Quality Assurance

The quality of an x-ray image is critical to the functioning of x-ray equipment, especially in the food manufacturing industry. The clarity, resolution, and contrast of the images should be evaluated regularly to ensure that they are up to acceptable standards to allow operators to effectively detect contaminants and other issues.

Along with evaluating the picture’s end product, personnel should also evaluate any algorithms that are used to create images, along with magnification settings and other analytical components. The key is to ensure everything is calibrated to prevent false negatives (and false positives).

Documentation and Record Keeping

Food manufacturers with x-ray inspection equipment have a duty to keep careful records. The checklist should include a catalog of the records that should be maintained, including inspection settings, maintenance records, training records, and radiation exposure. The results from previous inspections should also be retained.

Integration of Technology in X-Ray Inspection Checklists

quality control manager holding tablet

Technology can significantly contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of an x-ray inspection checklist. Specifically, automation and artificial intelligence can be leveraged to boost reliability and even increase the speed and responsiveness of personnel.

Even basic technology that’s been around for decades can assist in implementing a checklist. An example of this would be using automated calendars and text reminders that an inspection is scheduled. Key tasks that need to be completed as part of the checklist can be cascaded to relevant personnel in preparation for an inspection.

More advanced technological concepts can also be integrated into an x-ray inspection checklist procedure. An example of this would be connecting various data systems to promote the exchange of data between various departments in real-time, reporting on the progress of an inspection, and alerting technicians or management of a task that needs to be addressed immediately.

What Are the Consequences of Not Following the Checklist?

X-ray inspection best practices include not only following a checklist but also doing regular inspections as recommended by equipment manufacturers or required by law.

Not creating and adhering to a checklist can have serious, and even life-threatening consequences. At a glance, a food processor who fails to follow a checklist could face the following:

  • Contaminated products: Not following a checklist leaves an organization vulnerable to having contaminants in its food products that aren’t detected by an x-ray system. This could result in recalls, damage to reputation, and even legal consequences.
  • Foodborne illnesses: Consumers put a lot of trust in food products, and when an x-ray machine isn’t working properly (and an inspection fails to detect an issue), people are at risk of becoming ill. The negative publicity and legal ramifications can be costly.
  • Product recalls: When an x-ray system hasn’t been thoroughly inspected, the risk of it not working properly increases. If a foreign object isn’t detected and the food product enters the stream of commerce, it can result in a costly product recall.
  • Regulatory violations: Organizations with x-ray systems are required to undergo routine inspections. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines or orders to cease operations. This can be costly and damage a brand’s reputation.
  • Health and safety risks: While the functionality of an x-ray inspection system is important for everyday operations, the health and safety of operators and site personnel cannot be overstated. Several items on an x-ray inspection checklist will include safety protocols to ensure that radiation exposure is limited. If an organization skips an inspection or doesn’t have a comprehensive checklist, it can put the health of employees in jeopardy.

Safety Measures Included in an X-Ray Inspection Checklist

worker measuring radiation level

Ensuring a comprehensive x-ray inspection absolutely includes a long list of safety measures. Both the safety of food products and the manufacturing facility as a whole need to be maintained for a site to continue operations uninterrupted.

Of utmost importance in the category of safety measures is a checklist pertaining to radiation safety protocols. This will, at a minimum, include the following:

  • Proper shielding to minimize radiation
  • Measuring radiation levels
  • Confirming that proper documentation is posted (including operating and emergency procedures)
  • Reviewing previous maintenance and inspection records
  • Verifying operator safety training is up to date
  • Inspecting equipment for adherence to food hygiene standards

What Regulatory Standard Should Be Considered?

Every industry has its own set of regulatory bodies that create rules that need to be followed. These rules, though sometimes arduous, are meant to protect the public at large, including your own employees.

In the food manufacturing and processing industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standard for what must be followed. This includes setting a threshold for food contaminants. It’s a good idea to calibrate systems to exceed minimum standards to promote product quality and have something of a safety net.

The FDA also outlines requirements for x-ray systems, including safety standards, equipment design, performance, and record-keeping.

Another regulatory agency that has sway in this area is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). These regulatory standards are focused on worker safety issues, particularly minimizing the risk of radiation exposure.

At TDI Packsys, we are dedicated to supplying food manufacturers with state-of-the-art systems. To learn more about our food x-ray inspection systems, call us at 877-834-6750.

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