Metal Contaminated Oatly Oat Drink

By Paul Fears | 30 April 2019

Potential presence of metal pieces has caused the Food Standards Agency UK to issue a food alert relating to Oatly UK’s Oatly Oat Drink Whole.  The Agency states that ‘the presence of metal makes this product unsafe to drink and presents a safety risk’.  Otaly UK Limited has recalled the specific date coded 1 Litre batch sold in Tesco stores.  Oat Drink Whole is a milk substitute comprising mainly of oats, water, rapeseed oil and salt.  It is promoted for use in baking and in hot drinks such as coffee.

Oat Drink

How Is A Oat Drink Produced?

In commercial oat milk or oat drinks, the production process starts with milling, followed by enzyming to break down the oat starches into smaller components. The bran is then separated from the oats, leaving behind the loose fibres. Then, if relevant other flavourings and ingredients are added, such as vitamins. The milk is then sterilised before being packaged.

Where Does Metal Come From?

The presence of metal in food is not uncommon.  In 2018, there were 4 Metal Contamination Food Alerts.  As when processing any cereal product, there are several stages where metal contamination can enter the production process.  These include:

  • The raw material delivered to the production plant may already be contaminated with metal.  This metal could originate from the harvesting of the oats or from transportation;
  • Once in the plant, the production process can create metal contamination through equipment wear or failure;
  • Metal, in the form of a tool or even a mobile phone, can be introduced into the process accidentally such as during maintenance;
Fine iron removed from rice

Fine iron captured removed from rice

Ensuring a Metal-Free Product

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.

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 oat drink 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


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