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Foreign Body Detection: Transparency in the food and beverage industry

26 April 2016  •  Author(s): Stephanie Anthony, Commissioning Editor, New Food

Contamination can be a huge issue for food and beverage manufacturers, making foreign body detection systems extremely important – to save face and maintain customers’ trust. This year alone large companies such as Nestlé and Mars have had recalls after products were found to be/ potentially contaminated with glass pieces and plastic pieces respectively1,2 .

Foreign Body Detection: Transparency in the food and beverage industry

All businesses, irrespective of size, should take all reasonable precautions to ensure that the produce they supply meets safety requirements. While the precautions taken by small manufacturers may not be as extensive as those taken by a larger business, even small companies must – at every stage of the food or feed chain – take reasonable precautions to ensure that their produce meets food or feed safety requirements.

A foreign body is defined as an object or piece of extraneous matter that has entered (the manufacturing process/ end product) by accident or design. Glass and plastic are examples, but it also includes pests. Around 60% of complaints reported across a range of UK and European clients in the food service are related to foreign bodies3 . These unfortunate cases not only affect the consumers – as there can be potential health risks -but also the manufacturers, as it means a loss of sales and a waste of product and time.

The systems that can be implemented to try to prevent contamination are numerous; foreign body detection systems range from being relatively cheap to install, to the more complex (and as such more expensive) systems. Some examples are sieving methods, magnets and optical sorting. Technologies from the medical sector have also proved to be useful – for example x-ray and ultrasound technology can both be used to detect contaminants in the production line.

These systems can also be used to whittle out products that don’t match the specifications set for the final product – e.g. size and shape – or identify damaged product before it can reach consumers. Some systems are advanced enough to detect chemical composition and, as such, can identify chemical contaminants such as allergens.

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