Food Safety

Apr 21, 2022 | Sesotec

Modern X-ray equipment software for better detection, efficiency and compliance

X-ray inspection offers attractive solutions to the challenges of food safety. Along those lines, Sesotec experts explain the benefits of high-tech software for efficient food production and greater food safety.


For scientists, legislators and especially food processing companies, the topics of food safety and quality are a permanent challenge. Moreover, since the government regulators cannot actively and fully control food safety, it is the food industry in particular that bears the brunt of the responsibility. The principle of self-regulation is key, meaning that anyone who produces food and puts it on the market is responsible for food safety and liable for the consequences of foreign body contamination. Production that conforms to the established guidelines is therefore indispensable. At the same time, of course, it is important to pay attention to efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Innovative X-ray inspection makes an important contribution to efforts to meet the requirements of maximum food safety and achieve economic efficiency in food production. This includes the implementation of modern software solutions that support and optimize the efficiency of the X-ray equipment hardware.

In the following article, the current state of these efforts is explained, taking into account the remaining relevant advantages.


The benefits of high-tech features in X-ray inspection for greater food safety

Food quality is a top priority. Defective and contaminated food products must be prevented at all costs to avoid far-reaching consequences, such as expensive recalls, extensive recourse claims or, in the worst case, damage to health on the part of the end consumer.

Modern software solutions, such as those used in Sesotec X-ray inspection systems as a supporting counterpart to proven hardware functions of X-ray devices, provide a remedy. Depending on the manufacturer and X-ray inspection model, food processing companies benefit from various software features. These features range from software ensuring common standards to innovative solutions that provide clear performance advantages. What they have in common, however, is that they make an important contribution to optimizing detection accuracy, support compliance with food safety standards and increase usability and productivity in food production. Some examples of software features are described below.


High detection accuracy and efficiency

While metal detection registers disturbances triggered by the conductivity and magnetic properties of ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals or stainless steel, X-ray technology focuses on density comparison. The method is particularly suitable for foreign bodies with high densities, such as stones or metals. However, weaknesses are often revealed in the detection of foreign bodies with a lower density.




As a result, the risk of not detecting contaminants such as bones, metal wires and glass fragments can be high. That is why when selecting a suitable X-ray inspection system, it is advisable to ensure that it contains features that improve the detection of bones, metal wires and glass shards. For example:

  • Bone: For a long time, the detection of bones in meat and poultry processing was a challenge. With the appropriate software, the identification of bones and cartilage is vastly optimized.
  • Metal wires: Wires - no matter what type of metal and what diameter - are also detected. This includes smaller elongated wire shapes that may remain undetected with other detection methods such as metal detection.
  • Glass fragments: Glass in particular is very difficult to identify with other detection methods. The software filter further optimizes the general advantages of X-ray inspection with regard to density comparison in the detection of glass fragments.

The filters can complement each other. For example, the glass filter in combination with the bone filter detects large flat foreign bodies with low density much better.

But that's not all, as properties such as the weight or shape of the food products also play a major role. X-ray inspection systems optimally include software solutions for the reliable identification of weight and shape deviations and for fully checking the individual products in a line. The software calculates the weight of the products, taking into account dimensions and density, and identifies broken, deformed or missing products within a package. This is particularly time-efficient in combination with software solutions that enable the simultaneous X-ray inspection of several products on several lines. Common features for this are:

  • Multi-line: This enables simultaneous X-ray inspection on up to 4 lines. Products from several lines can be combined and inspected on one unit.
  • Multi-Product: It allows up to 20 different products to be conveyed in any order. The software recognizes which product is currently passing through the X-ray and selects the appropriate parameter set within milliseconds.
  • Zone analyzer: It allows zone definitions within an X-ray image. Counting and weighing is possible for each zone independently and allows optimal detection sensitivities.


Compliance with current food safety standards

Complete, efficient monitoring and documentation of all measures for compliance with food safety standards - such as IFS, BRC or FSSC 22000 and for identifying potential weak points - is simple in theory but not in practice. This is because the plethora of rules, regulations and standards, along with constantly changing framework conditions, is becoming increasingly complex. Software solutions enable seamless and efficient documentation through:

  • Audit Checks: The software guides you through the audit routine and logs all steps for adequate monitoring of quality throughout the entire production process. With the help of the audit check, weak points can be identified, corrected and documented more easily.
  • Sensitivity predictions: The software allows the X-ray inspection system to be enhanced by means of virtual calculation, without the need for a test card or extensive input from the operator. The detection sensitivity of stainless steel and glass is determined automatically. Test cards are stored in the software in all sizes and are calculated with the greyscale image of the product - as if a product with a test card were actually being recorded.
  • Compliance Mode: The required detection accuracy can be set manually. In the event of any parameter changes, these can be easily stored in the software to ensure constant, flexibly adaptable process stability.
  • Self-monitoring: The software continuously checks current sensitivities at defined time intervals. This control enables the immediate identification of deviations, issues quick countermeasures, and thus increases the overall stability of the production process.
  • Validation process: The validation process provides evidence that the desired quality target for the product is achieved. Product data and information on the detection signal are evaluated and merged in the metal detector to create the validation certificate in PDF format. The menu provides step-by-step support in carrying out the validation process and enables paperless documentation and traceability.




Higher user-friendliness

Measures that save time and costs contribute to the economic success of food processing companies. Reliable foreign object detection - and thus maximum food safety - still depends to a large extent on the human factor, and requires a high level of user motivation and acceptance. The user’s successful engagement is the only way to avoid errors in the production process, damage to the health of the end consumer and a long-term loss of business reputation. For this purpose, too, there are various software solutions that offer relief to the operating personnel, reducing the amount of necessary input and at the same time making it much more time-, cost- and result-efficient. These include:

  • Automatic edge detection: The software automatically detects packaging effects that inhibit sensitivity and adjusts the filter to the product contours. Expertise in filter techniques, among others, is not necessary for operators.
  • Automatic adjustment of the X-ray source: As part of the teach-in process, the optimum X-ray output is set fully automatically for maximum detection accuracy (Auto KV).
  • Clip detection: A software solution with the "ignore clip" function allows users to hide the grey value of a metal clip and thus increase the detection sensitivity inside the product. All that is needed is to check that particular function in the filter menu.

Conclusion

Defective and contaminated products can have serious consequences. Recalls, damage to health on the part of the end consumer and/or recourse claims are cost-intensive for food companies and particularly damaging to their reputation and image. Depending on the manufacturer and X-ray inspection models, there are various software solutions on the market that support food processing companies in boosting detection accuracy, productivity, conformity and user-friendliness so that these worst-case scenarios do not occur.

Particularly noteworthy are those software solutions that support the directive-compliant implementation of various food safety standards such as IFS, BRC or FSSC 22000 and make a valuable contribution to efficient production while simultaneously increasing food safety.





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