Meeting Quotas and Consumer Expectations in the Face of Foreign Material Contamination

The significant amount of raw materials required to manufacture a food product, coupled with a complex supply chain, indicate that food producers must remain vigilant in managing the risk of foreign material contamination. For years, the only options for producers who suspected an issue were to attempt to rework the product internally or send it to a landfill. With new technology, there are other options that can be implemented—similar to third-party labs that test product for microbiological issues, third-party X-ray inspection service providers are on the rise. 

Recently, we spoke with Carmen Rottenberg, Founder and Managing Director of Groundswell Strategy. Prior to her work at Groundswell, Rottenberg served three years as an administrator for USDA FSIS. According to Rottenberg, anything that should not be in your food product is considered an adulterant. “Foreign material contamination can come from just about anywhere. Be it plastic from gloves, metal from machinery, packaging fragments and more, the risk is always present,” Rottenberg noted.

No producer wants to send contaminated product to market. While internal investigations can be helpful, time doesn’t always allow for the most thorough search—particularly when consumer demand and production quotas inch closer.

Even with your best internal inspection methods at play, contaminated product can end up in commerce. The larger and more dense the object, the more danger the end user potentially faces. Rottenberg said, “While your production facility may have metal detectors set up for inspection, those metal detectors aren’t going to catch non-metal foreign material.”

You can (and should) send completed product out for inspection or testing on an ongoing basis, a sentiment echoed by Rottenberg. Even more valuable, she pointed out, is supplier validation. In the same way that you have a responsibility to your customers, your suppliers have a responsibility to you.

You want to reduce the risk of contaminated product and make the best possible purchasing decisions. Validation helps you answer the question: Will continuing to buy from this upstream seller give me the best possible ROI on my product? 

When it comes to foreign material contamination, you’ve got a lot to consider. As Rottenberg outlined, from meeting quotas to managing customer expectations, there are weighty considerations resting on plant managers’ shoulders. 

Determining the best course of action for your product—and ultimately, your bottom line—is a balancing act. Once you understand your options, the next step is to weigh the costs (financial and otherwise) and then, choose the right approach for your company and product. 

If you are interested in learning more about how third-party inspection works and want to see if it is a good fit for your business, consider FlexXray. Our X-ray inspection services provide better accuracy, better cost savings and better results for your brand. If you have product on hold or would like to learn more about what we do, contact us today!

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