There have been a number of high profile product recalls in recent times, leading to many thousands of pounds in weight of product being withdrawn from the market, significant costs to the manufacturer in financial terms and, importantly, in damage to brand reputation.
In a world of social media, consumers have considerable power if an unsatisfactory product is discovered and can make it known to all in a very short space of time. While the physical costs of a recall are relatively simple to calculate — such as the publication of alerts, loss of revenue, transport etc. what is not easy to determine are the long term effects of a loss of consumer confidence in a brand.
There are many reasons why a product may be recalled, such as incorrect labeling of allergens or microbiological contamination for example, but among the most common is the discovery of a physical contaminant. Indeed, according to a recent report from Stericycle, in Q1 of this year the US alone saw some 49% of product recalls attributed to the discovery of foreign materials – such as glass, metal or bone.
A Sensible Option
With more stringent regulations coming into force, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2010 and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Guidelines, for example, many small to medium sized manufacturers have followed their larger counterparts and employed X-ray inspection as a cost effective measure to prevent physical contaminants entering the retail supply chain.
This not only ensures compliance with legal requirements, but also opens many doors in terms of retail customers. Many supermarkets and retailers – such as Wal-Mart and Marks & Spencer – have developed their own stringent policies with regard to quality control and will not enter into negotiations with a supplier unless they have X-ray inspection systems in place for the detection of physical contaminants. While many have seen this as being dictated to by the retail giants, it is actually a smart move when it comes to protecting their own brands and reputations.
The Flexibility of X-ray Inspection
Once placed correctly on a production line — generally as a result of a HACCP audit, to determine where the physical contamination risk areas are - X-ray inspection systems allow manufacturers to detect foreign bodies such as metal fragments from machinery, glass shards from jars or bottles, stones and some plastic and rubber compounds.
In addition, the systems are also capable of carrying out a number of other valuable quality inspection checks simultaneously. Fill levels and mass can be monitored — ensuring that products are not underweight and therefore potentially illegal, or overweight, meaning product is being given away unnecessarily.
All of these checks are carried out in line, meaning there is no slowing of production speed whatever, and 100% of product is inspected — effectively leaving no stone unturned. A range of software applications can be employed which, importantly, have the ability to monitor inspection activity, collect the data (including inspection images) and store it centrally. In the case of an incident occurring where the manufacturer has been called to account, all data will reinforce the claim that all reasonable efforts were made to detect any contaminant found — giving a defense of due diligence if required.
Product inspection is not a ‘would like to have’ element for food manufacturers anymore. Regulations and retailers alike have rightly increased their expectations in this area, and choosing the correct system for your requirements is paramount. Working with an expert to ensure this is right first time could save a lot of time and money in the long run and choosing X-ray will surely bring the greatest benefits overall.
About Eagle Product Inspection
Eagle Product Inspection is a pioneer in advanced x-ray inspection and fat analysis systems, delivering robust, market-leading technology and expertise to food and beverage processors and manufacturers around the world. The Eagle Product Inspection line of x-ray inspection systems evaluates in process and finished products for contaminants such as metal, glass, stone and bone while also having the ability to analyze the fat content of meat, count components, check seal integrity as well as measure mass and assess fill levels.