Meeting the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and ensuring the safety of baked and snack food products in today’s market is paramount, and selecting the right technology for the job can be critical. Since product characteristics differ from pies to cakes to salty snack foods, sourcing the right inspection and detection technology for each application is important to ensuring products are contamination-free.

FSMA outlines that manufacturers must identify hazards, define preventative controls to eliminate or reduce the hazards, determine process parameters for these controls and then implement and continue to monitor the process to ensure corrective actions are taken to verify the system is working properly. Preventive controls for physical hazards often include metal detectors and X-ray detection systems designed for food products.

Looking at the use of metal detectors for baked items, one of the biggest challenges is “product effect.” This occurs when a product has a conductive property impacting the magnetic field generated by the metal detector. This can be found in high salt, high moisture product environments such as warm bread coming out of the oven. The warm bread coupled with the high salt content can impact the metal detector’s ability to distinguish between actual non-ferrous metal contaminants and the false signal given by the combination of typical attributes. This is further complicated by the varying densities, air bubbles and other physical characteristics of each loaf, since no two loaves are exactly alike. In these situations, X-ray equipment produces the desired results as product effect is not a factor.

For products such as cakes and pies, the recommended inspection machinery for these products is dependent on the packaging materials used. Since most pies are packaged in aluminum foil pans, metal detectors can be used to examine ingredients and dough. However, after the pie has been placed into the pan and/or folding carton, X-ray inspection is needed.

Typically, metal detectors work well with frozen baked foods that no longer have a product effect that “just out of the oven” versions do. The trick is to ensure that the freezer is efficient and is holding the product at the correct temperature. If a product isn’t completely frozen, its unfrozen center may “look” like a piece of metal to the detector.

Although most snack foods don’t have the product effect issues found in baked items, spotting contaminants is challenged by the packaging material of choice. The majority of snack foods today are packaged in metalized film — which means these packages are not good candidates for metal detectors.

Sourcing the right technology for each baking and snack food application is critical to food safety. The next stop in the Pack Expo portfolio of trade shows, Pack Expo East, set for March 3-5, 2020, in Philadelphia, provides the ideal opportunity for snack food manufacturers to explore new advances in food safety technology and find solutions to packaging challenges. Produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, the three-day event will bring together 7,000 attendees, with 400 companies showcasing new technologies in 100,000 net square feet of exhibit space. Pack Expo East attendees will enjoy all the educational and networking opportunities traditionally offered at Pack Expo while allowing for more face-to-face time with exhibitors to find applicable answers. For more information and to register for Pack Expo East 2020, go to Registration is $30 through Aug. 30 after which the price increases to $100.