The globalization of the food market has led to much longer supply chains, with raw ingredients sourced in one country, processed, and packaged in another, ready for selling in a third or even a fourth nation. This means that brand owners have to ensure that their products and their manufacturing processes comply with the regulations in place in each of the markets they are operating in. For example, if food is sourced in the U.S., processed in the U.K. and sold in France, then the manufacturer will have to meet the requirements of FSMA, the BRC Global Standards, and the IFS.
As a result, in order to comply with so many food safety standards, manufacturers have to ensure that their production lines meet more than just high hygiene standards. They also need to have in place precision product inspection processes to identify any and all instances of physical contamination on the line to minimize the risk of sub-standard packs reaching consumers. Product inspection equipment, such as advanced X-ray systems has been a real help here to manufacturers, enabling them to automate their quality control procedures to inspect all of their packs for foreign bodies. The use of high-performance X-ray technology can help manufacturers safeguard against physical contamination and reduce the risk of food safety recalls, protecting their brand reputation.
A New Generation of Technologies to Avoid Recall Threat
The new more stringent regulations in place worldwide are pressuring manufacturers to achieve ever higher standards of food safety. The industry is now turning to equipment suppliers to provide them with technologies that uphold the highest levels of product quality, while maintaining optimum line speed and efficiency.
Installing product inspection technologies on production lines in accordance with the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a key first step in minimizing the risk of contamination. Under this protocol, rather than just inspecting products at the end of the manufacturing process, advanced inspection systems must be installed at every location on the line identified as vulnerable to contamination, known as Critical Control Points, or CCPs. Doing this can ensure that even minuscule foreign bodies are identified as early as possible, maximizing detection rates and preventing contaminants from fragmenting during processing to affect a greater number of products.
However, to keep up with burgeoning competition on the international stage, food manufacturers need to strike the right balance between product safety and line productivity, which increasingly means boosting line speeds. High throughput rates through the product inspection process can be easily achieved though by installing advanced X-ray inspection machines capable of precision contaminant detection at high speeds, as well as by automating the rejection process. Fully-integrated automatic rejection systems can ensure that all non-conforming packs can be removed without the need to stop or slow the production line, maximizing production uptime while keeping the risk of a contamination incident to a minimum.
While the inclusion of inspection systems that follow HACCP principles has helped to significantly decrease the likelihood of contamination reaching consumers, it is imperative that manufacturers are prepared for a potential food safety incident involving their product. If a recall were to occur, they need to be able to manage both the recovery of non-conforming packs from retailers and consumers, as well as any investigation by the authorities, providing proof of their due diligence.
In such an event, being fully informed about the performance of the production line and the product inspection systems is vital to maintain continuous operation and to mitigate the negative impact on brand reputation. Modern X-ray systems feature data management systems fully incorporated into the machine, capable of recording and storing data about both conforming and non-conforming products on the line. This information can allow manufacturers to demonstrate that they have taken every feasible measure to prevent contamination to investigators, and to enable them to trace the source of safety issues. Advanced systems can also be connected to a larger network, enabling manufacturers to access data from multiple inspection machines, and at the same time, further facilitating their analysis of contamination trends. All of this can help manufacturers to keep up to speed with how their production processes are operating and help to demonstrate due diligence, should the worst happen.
Evolving with the Food Safety Landscape
The international food market has undergone an immense transformation since 2009, with increased globalization of the supply chain and the introduction of a raft of rigorous safety regulations worldwide. To continue to comply with legislation and retain access to lucrative overseas markets while remaining competitive on the world stage, food manufacturers need to ensure that they have the most up-to-date product inspection systems installed on their lines to optimize contaminant detection without compromising on productivity.