Detecting physical contamination in food 

Physical contaminants, also referred to as foreign body contaminants, are physical objects that contaminate food. From farm to factory to fork, physical contaminants can enter food products at any stage in the food production lifecycle. For this reason, food quality control programs rely on inspection technology to detect and remove physical contaminants at many points throughout the manufacturing process.

Types of physical contamination  

Physical contaminants in food take many forms, and their presence in food products can range from unpleasant but harmless to highly dangerous if chewed or swallowed. 

Some physical contaminants, such as seed pits, plant stalks, or bone fragments, are naturally occurring in the food ingredient but valueless in the product. Other physical contaminants, like dirt, stones, or insect fragments, are naturally occurring in the environment in which the raw food material was harvested. Non-organic physical contaminants, like bits of plastic, metal, or glass, may enter the product during food processing and distribution.

Preventing physical contamination

Because physical contamination can happen at every stage of food harvesting, processing, and preparation, HACCP standards emphasize that food products must be inspected several times on their journey from raw ingredients to finished meals.

Adequate prevention of physical contamination can be accomplished with a range of food contamination detection equipment, food quality assurance methods, and proper hygiene.

The following series offers guidelines for the safe detection and removal of physical contaminants in industrial food processing.

  • Part 1 The Basics of Metal Detection in the Food Industry – Improper handling and equipment wear can result in metal fragments entering in food products. This chapter provides an overview of the role and effectiveness of industrial metal detectors for food contaminants.  
  • Part 2 The Use of X-ray Inspection Systems in the Food Industry – X-rays for the food industry are often implemented to inspect products after they’ve been packaged. Learn about how food safety x-rays can be used to detect organic and non-organic contaminants, from bone fragments to glass shards.  

  • Part 3Determining Critical Control Points in the Food Production Process – HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a systematic approach to food quality control in industrial settings. This chapter explains how to define at which points quality assurance measures should be implemented into your food production process.  

  • Part 4 Testing Contaminant Detector Performance According to BRC Standards – In many cases, food safety is directly linked to the accuracy of your x-ray inspection machine or metal detector for food processing. This guide explains how and when to assess the performance of your food inspection equipment. 
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