X-ray inspection. These systems are just as adept as metal detectors at finding metal and provide detection of non-metallic contaminants too, including glass, mineral stone, calcified bone, and high-density plastics.
In addition, the latest X-ray inspection equipment is simultaneously capable of performing additional quality assurance checks such as measuring mass, checking fill levels, and detecting missing and damaged products, as well as identifying seasoning agglomerates such as flavor or powder lumps.
Unlike with traditional inspection systems, the accuracy of X-ray food inspection equipment isn’t affected by freeze/thaw conditions, moisture, or salinity, and metal packaging has no effect on sensitivity of detection.
In addition, duel energy X-ray technology, Material Discrimination X-ray (MDX) for example, can discriminate materials by their atomic number and not on density alone to enhance traditional X-ray inspection and enable the detection of those historically undetectable inorganic contaminants in multiple-textured products. MDX also allows snack manufacturers to inspect products in corrugated card encasements and foldout cardboard sandwich packaging that plague traditional X-ray inspection tools, and is especially valuable for inspecting snacks with high-density variations, such as cereals, nuts, and confectionery.
Benefits of X-ray Inspection
Advanced X-ray food inspection equipment is capable of providing safety and quality assurance at every stage of production for unpackaged and packaged snack applications, and eliminates the need for multiple inspection machines on one line by performing the following quality checks.
Fill level. Modern X-ray inspection systems allow manufacturers to set maximum and minimum fill levels and will reject products that fall outside these pre-set parameters. Fill levels can also be adjusted by adding an optional feedback to the filling machine, which is particularly beneficial for staged products, such as cans of crisps. Filler feedback control can reduce product giveaway and customer complaints by assuring the customer receives exactly what they expect every time.
Component counts. X-ray inspection equipment is simultaneously capable of detecting missing, deformed, or broken snacks. Some x-ray food inspection systems can look inside final sealed packaging to check that all components are present, for example that the right number of cereal bars are inside each box. By counting cookies and crackers that can’t be seen or counted by cameras or human eyesight, systems can help to reduce customer complaints.
Seal integrity. The integrity of airtight seals is vital to the quality control of food produce. X-ray machines are capable of preventing food spoilage by identifying obstructions in packaging seals. Ensuring seal integrity is an important step in the prevention of microbiological contamination and any resulting product recall this could cause. Seal integrity checks by X-ray inspection machines can help prevent customers rejecting a spoiled product or sticky packaging.
Mass measurement. X-ray food inspection systems can help snack manufacturers exert better quality control by measuring overall and zoned mass. Mass measurement is particularly effective on high-speed lines where traditional in-line weighing systems may not be practical or offer the same level of accuracy. It’s also useful when space limitations mean manufacturers can’t accommodate separate machines and need all checks to be simultaneously carried out—in one machine. For products in defined compartments, X-ray inspection systems are available that can provide results for individual zones.
Unlike checkweighers, which can only measure the total weight of a box of snack bars, X-ray inspection equipment can measure the weight of a box of snack bars and the weight of each individual snack bar inside the box.
Following a number of highly-publicized food safety scandals in recent years, global safety regulations are increasingly far-reaching and more stringent. Examples include the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, which aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it, and China’s revamped food safety law, which took effect in October 2015, and imposes criminal liability for unsafe food.