Features such as auto-check functions, menu-guided validation and password-protected system logbooks on metal detectors will help meet food safety inspection standards.

Not many pieces of processing equipment can be ­described as omniscient, but inline metal detection, X-ray inspection and vision systems meet the all-seeing criteria. And that makes them invaluable as bakers and snack makers strive to achieve the proactive preventative paradigm of regulations carrying out the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Operating a FSMA-compliant food processing environment requires facilities to not only act in a manner that makes sure their products are safe to consume but also document methods and provide actual data verifying performance. Advances by inline safety and inspection systems ensure such capabilities.

“A big part of FSMA is the requirement to document checks and verification,” observed Andrew McGhie, business manager, North America, EyePro Systems USA. “It has been said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will say that if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.”

Why do bakers and snack manufacturers need inline inspection? Like nearly every other food processor, they depend on processing equipment and pans made of stainless steel, aluminum and, on occasion, carbon steel. The risk with any metallic construction, although quite remote, is that a dough piece could be contaminated by a scrap of tramp metal, the most prevalent foreign material found in food.

Also, the ingredients food processors use are often classified as raw agricultural products and may contain natural impurities such as stones or twigs. Then there’s the matter of deliberate adulteration, which federal law now defines as an act of bioterrorism.

Food plant operators understand these risks and install automated inspection systems. Checkweighers guard against over- and underweights, and vision systems remove blemished, off-color and improperly sized pieces. Metal detectors and X-ray systems watch out for tramp metals, glass shards and other physical contaminants.

Although most frequently installed in packaging operations, such inline safety systems are useful at earlier processing stages. They can monitor incoming flour and ingredients at receiving. They also stand guard over dough streams to prevent accidental damage to dividers and formers and other processing equipment by tramp metal. X-ray inspection can be used to verify the presence of goods in cartons and the dispersion of inclusions such as fruits, nuts and chocolate chips.

Continue reading to learn how FSMA regulations are affecting inline systems.