Bakeries and snack producers need to inspect both up and downstream on their production lines to catch foreign materials before they damage critical equipment or end up in a final product.

“Food safety has always caused food processors to seek detection of all contaminants in their product, regardless of the size or the material,” said Todd Grube, product manager for inspection systems, Heat and Control. “While end-of-line inspection is the typical critical control point, inspection of incoming ingredients may offer benefits, such as protecting machinery and/or eliminating contaminants before they can be fragmented by downstream machinery into pieces that may be too small for detection at end-of-line inspection points.”

Some new technology, such as dual and other multi-energy inspection systems, can better detect elusive insects, wood or hair on pizza and other baked goods, said Kyle Hermes, vice president, TDI Packsys.

Dual-energy systems on X-ray equipment combine shorter, higher frequency wavelengths that have greater penetration power with lower frequency wavelengths that are unable to get through materials the same way.

“By being able to get two separate images into the system, one with a high frequency and one with low, what we’re able to see are actual differences in the product, where some areas absorb certain wavelengths and where other wavelengths pass through,” Mr. Hermes explained.

The system then compares this pass-through information to a set reference chart to determine the makeup of molecular material in the products, thus better detecting foreign material.

“By comparing it to the set reference chart, we’re able to pretty accurately get the molecular composition of every area of the product and can reject products with materials that are not as dense as the product is itself,” he said.

Other advances in technology involve how data is extracted and used by production managers.

“There’s been a noticeable shift toward closing the gap between machines and humans and using data to help predict rather than react to all types of production scenarios,” said Eric Garr, regional sales manager, Fortress Technology.

Having a single HMI screen linked to baggers, checkweighers and other machinery results in simpler gathering and consolidation of data and potentially streamlines and speeds up changeovers.

“Generally speaking, it’s more straightforward to integrate a metal detector with existing weighers, baggers and factory management systems, particularly the electronics,” Mr. Garr noted. “Some software integrations can be more seamless than others. It does depend on the complexity of the interface technology.”

Mr. Grube said the sanitary design of inspection systems should also be considered from a food safety perspective.

“Manufacturers of metal detectors and X-ray machines try to design equipment that minimizes where microbes that cause contamination can hide or where ingredients and/or product scraps can build up and make areas that need cleaning easily accessible for quick and thorough sanitation,” he said. “Beyond a superior design, they produce equipment that is constructed from high-quality, corrosion-resistant materials that do not easily degrade.”

For sanitary design, Heat and Control now offers stainless steel systems with smooth, seamless, and sloped surfaces and IP65-rated electrical cabinet and sensors for occasional low-pressure washdown along with other options for rigorous cleaning processes.

Michael Wilks, global marketing director, Bunting Magnetics, suggested using video information to communicate sanitary protocols to new employees upon arrival or with third-party technicians to increase their food safety awareness level before entering a production area for a service call.

Certainly, the heightened incorporation of AI in product inspection and the increasing use of more sophisticated technologies will enhance food safety going forward, but for bakeries and snack producers, metal detection remains a popular option.

“Food safety inspection and detection technology continually evolve,” Mr. Garr said. “However, metal detection continues in most cases to offer the best price-for-performance value in most bakery applications.”

This article is an excerpt from the September 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Quality Assurance, click here.