Inspecting wet and conductive products remains a challenge for meat processors

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

The he Interceptor Metal Detector range by Fortress Technology. Photo: Fortress Technology.
The he Interceptor Metal Detector range by Fortress Technology. Photo: Fortress Technology.

Related tags: Meat, Metal detection, Safety, Quality assurance

Inspecting wet and conductive products remains a challenge for meat and poultry processors, according to Fortress Technology.

Wet and conductive products, such as fresh and frozen meats, can react in different ways in the magnetic field of a food inspection metal detector which can lead to false readings and higher product waste. 

Product attributes

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Salty products like bacon and cooked hams can also impact a metal detector’s ability to distinguish between metal contaminants, including stainless steel, that may have been introduced during processing and the false signal given by the combination of product attributes. 

Speaking to GlobalMeatNews, Eric Garr, regional sales manager, Asia & Oceania, Fortress Technology, said the main challenges today are unrealistic expectations of metal detection technology. 

Sometimes a new QA (Quality Assurance) manger comes in and makes a company-wide spec (usually based on improving efficiency across the board) that is based on a desire, but with no proof of concept that it is actually possible. Very often in food inspection, the product has an effect that looks like it may be metal," ​he said. 

This product effect can be overcome, but will ultimately limit the achievable sensitivity. i.e. the product should determine the sensitivity and it should be based on testing. Not someone’s expectation that defies physics​.“

Nine Fortress Interceptor systems were recently installed by two multinational food companies, with both customers citing the increased sensitivity and machine performance as the reason for investment. 

With traceability a requirement, the Interceptor features data capture and Contact Reporter Software ensuring compliance with North American meat processing requirements, including GFSI/SQF, BRC and HACCP. 

Generally when we sell to a new customer, they come back for more as their needs grow or identify new locations in their process where a metal detector will improve their process and ultimately product quality​,” added Garr. 

Focused on maximizing product quality and minimizing food waste, the Interceptor Metal Detector range tackles the issue of false rejects. 

Raw, cooked, frozen meat 

The inspection machine can be deployed on numerous checkpoints on raw, cooked and frozen meat and poultry processing lines, including packing conveyors and configurations for minced meat, sausages and sauces. 

A conveyor version of the Interceptor will be on display at IPPE 2020, international production and processing expo, Atlanta, Georgia, (January 28-30). 

There is a growing perception that X-ray technology is ‘better’ than metal detection. This is never true, as the two technologies complement each other​,” said Garr. 

For example, more dense contaminants and non-metallic contaminants may be easier to detect with an x-ray.  However, less dense metals and alloys such as aluminum become really difficult to detect, where a metal detector will easily detect them​. 

X-ray should be chosen only where a metal detector is impractical; i.e. only inspecting for non-metallic contaminants or where the foil packaging will not allow metal detection inspection.​ 

Influx of low cost no-name brand metal detectors from China are inexpensive, but ultimately you get what you pay for. We cannot compete based on price, but we know that we always by far surpass them in value. i.e. performance, support, ease of use. 

As with any equipment, there is more to consider than just the price upfront. In comparison to most packaging equipment, a metal detector is relatively inexpensive in the first place. So, saving a little bit on the sticker price will be well out-weighed by the reduced downtime from investing in equipment built to the highest quality standards, that is user friendly and comes with excellent support. Sometimes this is only realized when the low cost detector doesn’t perform as expected or at all.​” 

IPPE 2020

Fortress Technology will demonstrate how its Interceptor range conquers product effect and addresses orientation to take wet food inspection to a new level of sensitivity at IPPE. 

Rather than tuning into specific frequencies, the Interceptor splits and simultaneously analyzes the low-frequency and high-frequency signals. This enables the food metal detector to differentiate between the signal generated by the product as a result of moisture or mineral content and any metal contaminant. 

The result is a more reliable and accurate reading regardless of size, shape and orientation of metal particles.

Independent tests reveal an improvement in detection capabilities of up to 100% with stainless steel, especially when inspecting traditionally difficult “wet” products or using metalized film during processing. 

Being IP69K rated, the Interceptor range is resistant to water ingress, maintaining hygiene and ensuring long-term reliability and performance in heavy washdown meat processing environments. 

Also on display at IPPE will be the company’s hygiene-focused Meat Pump and Pipeline Metal Detectors, designed to assist meat food processors to optimize cleaning standards and protect consumers from cross contamination.

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