The Bar Is Raising On Product Inspection: Are You Ready?

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Food safety is a top priority for food manufacturing companies today, increasing the demand for inspection systems. What should companies be mindful of and what tips can they use to stay ahead of the changing standards for product inspection?

Southeast Asia has become the number one growth region globally for the food industry, according to Frost & Sullivan, earning attention as companies boost production for both local and export markets. This makes the stakes high for the region’s producers to assure the safety and quality of that food supply. Product inspection equipment suppliers have developed new technologies that address those concerns. Some of these technologies have the added benefit of delivering a compelling return on investment (ROI) from increased productivity.

Thermo Scientific NextGuard X-ray Detection System

Consumers and regulatory bodies have safety and quality standards that are high and going higher, such as the Standard Nasional Indonesia (SNI) 7387:2009 regarding metal contamination in food products, the Singapore SS 590:2013 HACCP-based Food Safety Management standard and the Thailand Food Act B.E. 2522. Retailers want to know that rigorous product inspection processes are in place, with the latest equipment technology installed throughout the chain of custody. Packaging companies—striving for innovation in materials and design—add new complexities to the inspection process.

Food companies facing these pressures need to be mindful of missteps that can hamper their product inspection efforts. Designing and implementing a successful food safety and quality program requires considerations such as:

  • Where in the production process to place equipment
  • What type of equipment is right for the application
  • What functionality will ensure effective inspection yet be easy to use by many operators
  • What reporting features will provide documentation required by internal stakeholders, regulators and customers

Some food processors may opt for the most affordable option, but that’s typically a mistake. A higher performance, more reliable solution can drive greater efficiencies, reduce rework and ensure uptime.

Bear in mind that there are always threats to a company’s integrity. A disgruntled consumer can let the world know about a contaminant or out-of-spec package through social media, causing instantaneous reverberations. The complaint can quickly go from the local market to Western markets –where tough regulations and high expectations about product quality and reliability are the norm.

The Sensible Approach: Team Up With An Experienced Partner

While food producers have several ways to address food safety and quality concerns, they boil down to three options:

  • 1. Maintain the status quo and hope for the best.
  • 2. Purchase off-the-shelf systems that may or may not be suitable for the production application or provide the needed sensitivity and regulatory-compliant data.
  • 3. Work with an experienced inspection equipment maker who can recommend, engineer, install and service the right solution.

Thermo Scientific Xpert Bulk X-ray System

We know that option 1 is not suitable to meet inspection needs today and as your company grows. Option 2 is not a good one, either. While the packaged food sector has low margins, the wrong system or an incorrectly configured system can mean that physical contaminants could go undetected in your application, cause damage to your reputation and compromise ROI.

By selecting Option 3, you are more likely to discover places in your processing and packaging line where product inspection equipment can help you both comply with regulations and optimise productivity. You also are likely to work with an inspection partner that will stand behind its products, delivering best-in-class service and product warranties for peace of mind.

Often overlooked is the value in selecting a partner that is committed to food safety and quality on a global scale. Such a company will have solutions tailored for every aspect of food quality and safety—from ’farm to fork.’ A company with a global focus will let you expand your business, knowing that your solution will comply with varying food safety and quality requirements.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, for example, is the largest provider of food safety and quality analytical and testing solutions and services to organisations throughout Southeast Asia. Our 600 Thermo Fisher employees based in our regional Singapore headquarters deliver innovative solutions to hundreds of food companies from large multinationals companies to start-up specialty food companies, food-related research laboratories and government laboratories in the region.

Perhaps less well known is that the company’s expertise in food safety and quality, extends to include product inspection. In fact, Thermo Fisher Scientific has been in the product inspection business for decades and introduced the world’s first metal detector for food inspection nearly seven decades ago. Besides Thermo Scientific, the company has used other trade names that may be familiar, including Goring Kerr, Ramsey and Icore. Its product inspection solutions are far from new.

With Thermo Fisher Scientific’s scale and scope, food companies benefit from continual investment in innovation. Next-generation innovations push the boundaries of sensitivity/accuracy and productivity so food companies can gain better control of their processes, eliminate variability and keep consumers safe. Innovations also can address changes in package design and even food trends.

Thermo Scientific APEX HD Metal Detector

Broad product portfolios and a diverse customer base also mean numerous options for differing budgets and processing environments. Among the examples in Thermo Fisher’s inspection and detection portfolio are the following:

Applications Know-How: Why it Matters

Thermo Scientific Global Versa Checkweigher

As the food industry evolves, so does the intersection between production and inspection. The following is an example from the baking industry: Industrial baking is a growing segment in the Southeast Asia food-production industry. Between 2011 and 2018, overall compound annual growth rate is projected at 5.9 percent. Producers need assurance that their products are contamination-free and that the contents listed on the label are all inside. A holistic approach to product inspection is the answer.

There are typically five stages in which inspection equipment can be employed:

  • 1) Incoming ingredients. Some bakers will implement inspection at this phase, even if they have several other inspection methods installed later down the line. Typical incoming inspection consists of drop-through and bulk-flow metal detectors.
  • 2) Dough stage. This is an ideal location to conduct upstream inspection. Metal detectors are the equipment of choice because metal-based packaging is not yet part of the process.
  • 3) After baking/before packaging. The inspection equipment type will depend on the product type and whether its formulation creates a ’product effect.’ Warm, moist, high salt-content products such as breads are more suited for X-ray equipment, while metal detectors perform well with typically inert snack foods. Checkweighers can be employed at this stage to ensure that the product weight falls within specifications and will not create problems (such as line stoppages due to overfill) at the packaging stage.
  • 4) After packaging. The recommended inspection equipment type depends on the packaging materials used for the product. X-ray inspection is necessary for metalised film packaging while metal detection is suitable for metal-free packaging. Checkweighers are useful at this stage to avoid under- and overfills and reduce giveaway.
  • 5) After case packing. Some food companies inspect after the final packaging stage: case packing. X-ray inspection is ideal for this phase. A large-aperture system, such as the Thermo Scientific NextGuard C500 X-ray Inspection System is designed to inspect these large packages. The system can also to detect missing pieces so that the right contents are inside. Use of a checkweigher at this stage can confirm that the case is within the weight range specified.

An effective and efficient product inspection program that meets food safety needs today and tomorrow is integral to any food company. The growth prospects for the Southeast Asia food industry are bright. A complimentary evaluation of your product inspection program can help you assess whether the program you have in place today or are considering for tomorrow can help seize the opportunities. Learn more at Thermo Fisher.