Food safety is of the utmost importance to processors and food businesses, not only because of the risk to human health but in terms of business reputation and profits. Preventing contamination of any kind is therefore an essential part of quality assurance in food processing. Today, we’re going to investigate some different examples of physical contamination of food and how to prevent them in your processing line.
- The 3 types of food contamination
- 5 examples of physical contamination
- How to prevent physical contamination of food
The 3 (or 4) types of food contamination
Traditionally, there are three main types of food contamination: physical, chemical and biological. However, it is becoming increasingly common today to refer to four types: chemical, microbial (biological), physical, and allergenic.
Chemical contaminants include mycotoxins, pesticide residues, and other industrial and environmental contaminants.
Biological, or microbial, contaminants include viruses, bacteria and other pathogenic microorganisms that can cause spoilage and food poisoning.
Food allergy occurs in around 10% of infants, 4-8% of children, and about 2% of adults in Australia and New Zealand. Today’s food processors must pay close attention to allergenic contaminants, such as nuts and gluten, which can cause an allergic reaction and/or serious sickness to some people.
Physical contaminants include any foreign body that is present in food when it shouldn’t be. Let’s look at some of the most common examples now.
5 examples of physical contamination in food
For food processors, it’s particularly important to prevent the following physical contaminants during the manufacturing process.
- Pest remains and droppings
- Hair, fingernails and nail varnish
- Stones, metal and staples
- Plastic wrap/packaging
- Glass and wood
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many kinds of physical contaminants and a myriad of ways for them to enter food. This makes eliminating them very difficult. So, let’s look at the best ways to prevent physical contamination of food.
How to prevent physical contamination of food
Solid pest control, food storage, cleaning practices and worker personal hygiene standards must be maintained in order to reduce the risk of contamination. In accordance with HACCP guidelines, food processors must:
- Conduct a Hazard Analysis
- Determine Critical Control Points (CCP‘s)
- Establish critical limits
- Establish monitoring procedures
- Establish corrective actions
- Establish verification procedures
- Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures
How X-Ray equipment can help
If your HACCP audit identifies that your food products are at risk of physical contaminants besides metal, there is a strong business case to invest in X-Ray food inspection systems as opposed to metal detecting equipment.
Eagle X-Ray machines are designed to detect foreign bodies such as glass, mineral stone, calcified bone and high-density plastic and rubber in raw and/or finally processed product. It should be noted that finding physical contaminants in products with complex density levels (high variations in density) can prove challenging for traditional X-Ray inspection systems, which is why Eagle PI is FPE’s manufacturer of choice.
Eagle X-Ray equipment uses MDX technology to discriminate physical materials by their chemical composition (atomic number). This technology is ideal for inspecting ‘difficult’ or ‘busy’ X-Ray images, making it especially valuable for inspecting bulk and packaged foods—such as bags of mixed salad leaves, cereals, nuts and confectionery that contain high variations in density.
These machines therefore provide a huge amount of reassurance to processors with regards to the safety of their output.
If you’d like further details about the Eagle physical contaminant machines we supply, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team on AUS 1800 882 549 or NZ 0800 100 003. Don’t forget, all FPE’s X-Ray customers have access to a 24-hour support line for equipment breakdowns and emergencies, for total peace of mind.