Pro Tip: Assessing risks, establishing preventative controls and a well-trained team will help bakers reduce risk of recalls due to foreign materials.

Foreign material is the third leading cause of product recalls in the United States, so controlling it is a critical aspect of any food safety plan. A strong foreign material control program that adequately assesses risks, establishes preventive controls and is executed correctly by a trained team will minimize physical contaminants in products and reduce the risk of costly product recalls.

Each manufacturing facility’s risks will be different, so may warrant a different series of controls. To better understand the risks specific to their facility, food safety teams can start by conducting a hazard analysis, which will help them discover how foreign materials may get into their products. Based on this assessment, they should then develop an effective foreign material control plan that includes a series of controls to address and mitigate the risks they found in receiving, throughout the manufacturing process, and in packaging.

A variety of systems can be utilized to detect foreign material, including strainers, magnets, metal detectors and X-ray units. Choosing the best ones for the facility should be based upon the hazard analysis findings and necessary controls. Metal detectors are among the most used, as they help ensure that contaminated finished product does not reach consumers.

Unfortunately, even the best detection equipment can be bypassed by an employee who places rejected product back on the line or turns off the device when numerous rejects occur. That is why the most important aspect of controlling foreign material is to educate employees about why those controls are in place and the significance of rejected product.

A good plan that is executed by well-trained employees will minimize the risk of foreign material and help exceed expectations for food safety and quality.

Bonnie Biegel is director, quality assurance, Americas, for AIB International.