By Jim Bedford, Product Manager, X-ray Inspection Systems of Ishida Europe.
A variety of reasons lead companies that pack food to invest in X-ray inspection systems.
Some see them as an essential tool for managing risk, others believe they will help improve quality, and yet others see them as a marketing tool for managing their own reputation.
X-ray inspection picks up inconsistencies in materials. In a pack, or in a flow of product passing a given point, it can detect pieces of bone, stone and glass and of metals such as iron, steel, stainless steel and aluminum, as well as many plastics, such as Nylon, PVC and Teflon. The minimum size of particle that can be detected varies from one material to another, and also depends on the sensitivity of the system.
Foreign bodies are not the only inconsistencies an X-ray system can spot. Voids and broken or missing product pieces show up clearly, opening up whole areas of quality control. These inspection systems can be used to detect a full range of inconsistencies in products packed in cans or in metallized film.
X-ray inspection can also perform a number of other functions, from estimating piece weight to measuring the fat content of meat. While we will mention these in the context of price, this article mainly concerns inspection for foreign bodies and product imperfections.