The UK Food Standards Agency reported that Monolith (UK) recalled Halva due to the possibility of containing small pieces of metal. Monolith (UK) is a cash and carry wholesaler based in Barking, UK. The Halva product is produced by Ukraine-based Zolotoi Vek and imported for sale in the United Kingdom. The recalled Halva product is made from sunflower seeds with a vanilla flavour and is supplied in a 500g sized pack. The UK Food Standards Agency state that ‘the product may contain small pieces of metal, which makes it unsafe to eat’.
What Is Halva?
Halva is a dense, sweet confectionery commonly eaten in the Middle East and Central and South Asia. Variants are also popular in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, North Africa and Eastern Europe. The dessert is either flour or nut butter based. The recalled Halva was made by grinding sunflower seeds and then mixing with a hot sugar syrup cooked to hard-crack stage. Although the exact source of the metal contamination is presently unknown, metal is commonly introduced into the process at the grinding stage. The hardness of the seeds cause wear on the grinding equipment. Also, other metal or stone introduced into the process may damage processing equipment (such as the grinding machines) contaminating the food with metal.
Protecting Against Metal Contamination
Although metal contamination in a food process is not uncommon, the number of cases where products are recalled due to metal-contaminated products reaching the end customer are limited. Most food processing companies use a combination of Magnetic Separators and Metal Detectors. Magnetic Separators capture and remove any ferrous metal from the process, whereas Metal Detectors are commonly used at a later stage when the product is either nearly complete and/or packaged. The combination ensures that metal contaminated products do not leave the production process.
Many importers of foods have strict guidelines for suppliers regarding food safety. Companies like Marks & Spencer regularly visit suppliers to ensure compliance. Imported foods are commonly checked once arriving in the UK. The packaged products are passed through Metal Detectors to check for any metal contamination and X-Ray machines to identify any other contamination. This ensures that the product reaching the consumer is safe.
Protection and Prevention
It is also important that metal contamination protection is annually checked. For a magnetic separator, this means checking that the magnetic strength, magnet integrity, cleaning frequency and location. Metal detector checks often focus on the sensitivity, ensuring that the system is set-up to identify a specific size and type of metal. Food processing companies have such annual audits as part of their quality management system. Often that audit is undertaken by an outside company, such as the supplier of the magnetic separators and metal detectors.
Proactive metal contamination management ensures that all food reaching the consumer is metal-free and safe. This latest metal contaminated Halva product alert may have been prevented.
For more information on preventing Metal Contamination Food Safety Scares, or to arrange a free onsite survey and audit of a particular plant or process, please contact the Bunting team on:
Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081