The goal: Meet brand owner standards and FSMA requirements
Thermo Fisher Scientific X-ray systems detect contaminants in bulk ingredients
Based on the company’s Xpert platform, the systems can detect foreign objects in bulk materials such as seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Both the Xpert B400 (with a 400mm-wide conveyor belt) and the Xpert B600 (600mm wide) can run at speeds up to 80 meters/minute.
The machines can identify both metallic and non-metallic contaminants including rocks, glass, plastic and rubber. Typical detection sensitivities are 1–1.5mm for metals and 3–4mm for glass and rocks, according to the company.
Needle in a haystack
“Bulk ingredients are often picked in the field and packed in close proximity,” said Bob Ries, lead product manager for metal detection and X-ray inspection, Thermo Fisher Scientific. “As a result, it is fairly common to inadvertently pick up debris from the growing environment that has to be removed before the raw material is processed.”
In today’s business and regulatory climate, the food safety stakes are higher than ever.
“The packaged food companies have told us they are demanding their suppliers guarantee contaminant-free products,” Ries told FoodProductionDaily. “Some have even started to reject complete shipments when a foreign object can be traced back to a particular ingredient.”
In turn, that has generated demand among raw material suppliers for more sophisticated detection technology.
Most agricultural ingredient suppliers already have one or more detection systems in place, such as optical sorters, magnets or human inspectors, Ries said. However, “in cases where those systems are not 100% effective, the X-ray approach can offer additional detection and sorting value.”
Ease of use
Thermo incorporated a number of features into the Xpert bulk X-ray systems to maximize performance, flexibility and cleanability and minimize scrap and waste.
For example, the systems can use a front, back or side-slotted bulk flow input funnel. They have an adjustable metering device facilitate a consistent product level for optimum detection.
The systems run on multilane inspection software to minimize the amount of rejected material. They have an output slide with one to four rejection gates and a removable collection box for contaminated product.
Three different guide types — soft fabric, hard plastic, and troughed belt — are available to help products stay on the conveyor belt. Optional lane dividers are available to facilitate flow, as are optional belt scrapers to deal with sticky or wet products.
The X-ray systems have no shielding curtains, so nothing touches the product as it flows through the system. The conveyor belt and guides can be removed easily to facilitate cleaning of the inspection tunnel, according to the company.