The moment a physical contaminant is suspected or discovered in your food plant, your standard processes are immediately put on hold. Now, instead of focusing on getting your product to the end user, you have to take certain steps to ensure the safety of your product.
Fortunately, today’s technology has made it faster and easier to not only detect foreign materials in your food, but also to get the situation resolved quickly and cost-effectively. What once took days to resolve can now be managed in a matter of hours — when the right steps are taken.
Knowing in advance what steps to take can save time and money, and allow you to take care of foreign material contamination issues in a way that is best for your product, your plant and your customers.
A third-party X-ray food inspection service can identify and resolve contamination from foreign particles and prevent contaminated goods from reaching consumers. Use this food inspection checklist to walk through the steps to take when a foreign contaminant is discovered.
Five Steps to Resolving Food Contamination Issues
Every contamination issue begins with suspecting or knowing that there’s a problem. Whether that realization begins when maintenance discovers a missing O-ring or operations signals that something went wrong and contamination could have occurred, it instantly changes the usual sequence of food production procedures. Here are five steps to resolving the situation quickly.
Step 1: Put the Product on Hold
As soon as contamination is known or suspected, the product should be quarantined or bracketed until you take your next steps. The amount of time you have to resolve the problem is shorter for products with a short shelf life than it is for canned or non-perishable goods, so the nature of the product being bracketed will help determine how quickly the next steps must be taken.
Step 2: Contact FlexXray
Reaching out to FlexXray to understand your inspection options puts the process in motion. By asking a series of detailed questions, FlexXray can help you create a plan of action.
Questions will be based on things such as:
- Type of product
- Kind of contaminant known (or suspected) to be in the food product
- Type of packaging the food is in
- Dimensions of the product and packaging
Knowing the exact specifications of your product allows FlexXray to present you with the best possible options and to make sure that your product is inspected by the equipment that is best suited for it.
Step 3: Send a Sample for Testing
It is always best to ensure the contaminant can be clearly and consistently detected through the actual product. FlexXray’s flexibility ensures that your product can be tested for contaminants as soon as it arrives; determining detection capabilities, machine type, and time needed for inspection.
First, FlexXray tests the product in the case to determine if the contaminant can be detected to the size specified by the customer. If not, the product is removed from the case to the individual package level, and examined to see if the contaminant can be seen to the expected size at this level. Through this process, FlexXray can evaluate the scope of the problem and will be able to determine an accurate overview of the inspection project, scheduling, and the costs.
Within just a few hours of receiving the samples, FlexXray will provide the results of the testing (complete with photos if possible) and will communicate the inspection options, appointment times, and pricing. At that point you’ll be able to choose how you would like to proceed, keeping in mind that of all of the options available, resolving the contamination problem through X-ray inspection is the fastest and most cost-effective option.
Step 4: Inspection and Contaminant Retrieval Service
FlexXray can immediately schedule your product for X-ray inspection, with timing determined by the most efficient transportation method for getting the product delivered. Sending the bracketed product to FlexXray ensures that it will be thoroughly inspected for foreign material contamination, while at the same time maintaining all of the proper traceability.
During the inspection, if contamination is suspected the questionable package or item is removed from the line, segregated from the other product, and clearly marked with the correct package identification. The “good” product is repackaged based on your backfill direction and repalletized; ready to be returned to your facility or directly to distribution.
As an additional resource, FlexXray can perform a secondary service of contaminant retrieval. If selected, the segregated product from the initial inspection is taken to an offline x-ray machine and is inspected a second time. Upon pinpointing the exact foreign material location, the product is dissected and the contaminant is removed and logged. Each contaminant is professionally cataloged maintaining all traceability back to the exact pallet, batch/lot, and bag time. These results are scanned and sent via email upon completion and then are physically mailed overnight to the customer within 48 hours.
Step 5: Resume Distribution
Finally, once your product is free of contaminants, it’s ready for distribution. You can then choose to have the product returned to your facility for distribution or have it sent directly to a distribution center or a specific customer. In most cases, the product will still arrive on its original schedule, and in some cases, it may even arrive ahead of schedule.
No plant manager or QA professional wants to deal with a foreign contaminant, but because it’s bound to happen at one point or another, it’s crucial to have a good plan in place for dealing with it. Having a trusted partner for third-party inspection means that you can immediately put a plan into action when a physical contaminant is discovered or suspected.