Another News Story About Metal Contamination in Food
Sainsbury has recalled bread that potentially contains fragments of metal, reports Food Manufacture. The announcement was made on Monday 18th January after a warning from their bread supplier.
Food recalls due to metal contamination are far too frequent (The Damage of Metal Contaminated Food – September 2015), especially when there is a range of technology to remove and detect metal at various stages within a food manufacturing process.
So what exactly is the problem?
The vast majority of major food processors have installed technology to remove and detect metal including Magnetic Separators and Metal Detectors. Magnetic Separators are commonly used early in a process, removing metal from ingredients (e.g. in the case of bread, from flour and grains), whilst Metal Detectors are able to identify metal contained in finished products (e.g. in a final loaf of bread, even after packaging).
Whilst working closely with food processors, a number of potential issues have been identified including:
- Changes in the process. Every time a process changes then the metal separation and detection technology needs reviewing. Adjustments may be necessary to maintain the level of protection against metal contamination including relocating equipment, resetting sensitivities or installing additional equipment;
- Changes in the technology. Magnetic Separators have a very long life, but technological developments with magnets means that newer models are stronger and enable far better and higher levels of metal separation;
- Damage to in-situ equipment. Installed equipment can get damaged or even lost over time and needs to be regularly checked as part of a Quality Audit to ensure that all separation and detection systems are in place;
- Correct use and maintenance of installed equipment. This could be as simple as Magnetic Separators not being cleaned (and, therefore, no longer captures metal) and new workers not being trained sufficiently to correct operate a Metal Detector.
Some food suppliers, such as UK retailer Marks & Spencer, introduced vigorous checking procedures to address and prevent metal contamination problems. They stipulated that to be part of their food supply chain, suppliers had to have Magnetic Separators and Metal Detectors installed and that these had to be audited annually.
Subsequently, we [Bunting Magnetics] support many food producers and processors, assessing and reviewing their processes and production lines to advise on the best way to prevent contamination from metal. These Metal Separation Audits give companies reassurance, but also helps them continually improve. An audit commonly does not result in a need for additional equipment, but to more effectively utilise what is already installed.
Only one thing is certain and that is the continued presence of metal at some stage or stages in a food process. The key to preventing product recalls due to metal contamination, such as the one announced by Sainsbury on Monday, is to have the best possible Magnetic Separation and Metal Detection technology installed and to undertake regular and vigorous reviews.
For further information please contact Bunting on: