What is Foreign Material Contamination?

In the manufacturing industry, foreign material contamination is inevitable. It occurs in every facility at one time or another, but identifying and removing foreign materials is vital to a manufacturer’s success. 

What is foreign material contamination?  

Foreign material contamination arises when an object unintentionally enters a product before or during the manufacturing process. Foreign materials come in many shapes, sizes and elements, and are a costly hassle.

The most common type of foreign material contamination is metal. This is mainly due to the food and beverage industry’s gradual increase in production technology and automated processes, where machines now perform tasks once completed by a human. More robust technological advances allow for greater and more numerous opportunities for metal to enter the product somewhere along the supply chain as machines can break down, chip or err. 

While metal is the most common foreign material, there are numerous other types of contaminants that can enter food products and go undetected by inline inspection machines. 

The top two categories of foreign material contaminants include inadvertent material from the field (stones, metal, insects, etc.) and processing and handling materials (plastic, glass, bone, paint chips, rust). These materials can pose a serious threat to food quality and consumer safety. High demand items, such as dairy, meat, eggs and poultry, are often at greater risk of being contaminated simply because of the increase in machine tasks employed to meet consumer needs.

Inadvertent Material from the Field

Foreign contaminants such as stones, metal, insects and dirt may enter the product prior to processing. These materials are a result of harvesting or handling in the field, especially in produce and meat products. What makes these contaminants particularly difficult, however, is they easily go undetected by inline inspection machines. Inline inspection machines only find what they are calibrated for, and often don’t have the capability to detect less dense or unusual material types. 

Processing and Handling Materials 

Foreign contaminants such as glass, bone, paint chips and rust often enter the product during processing. Whether it be during the deboning process in meat production or an equipment breakdown where a broken piece of machinery falls into dairy product, these materials have the ability to stop production altogether as product flagged for foreign material contamination is put on hold. While a machine might be able to detect the presence of foreign material in product, it is not always capable of finding the material, which is often small enough to be missed by the naked eye. It is difficult to identify exactly where the broken pieces and missing parts are. 

Foreign material contamination is a major problem for food industry professionals as they often slip through manufacturing facilities, unidentified. Even when the contamination is identified, the removal of the foreign material is a painstaking process. 

When foreign material contamination goes undetected, there is a potential danger for both the company and the consumer. The company will lose consumer trust and brand reputation, or worseface lawsuits and PR crises. Once caught by the inline processes, the contaminated batch of product is put on hold. On-hold products are an inconvenience for manufacturing companies that face limited options for rework and often throw the product away.

That’s where FlexXray comes in. Foreign material contamination is not always avoidable, but there is a cost-efficient and quick way to safely rework on-hold products with FlexXray.  Our team discovers what inline detection machines often miss or aren’t calibrated to find. We find and extract all different types of foreign material down to 0.2 mm and smaller. Our process begins when you send your bracketed product to one of our facilities in Texas, Connecticut, Illinois or South Carolina. Within hours, we inspect and identify the foreign contaminants in your on-hold product. Once this is completed, your safe product will be ready to go to its next destination, and we’ll send an in-depth inspection report so you can feel confident in your on-hold product decisions.

We’re the most trusted third-party inspection service in North America. With 28 inspection lines nationwide, we can handle large and small scale inspection projects regardless of location. 

Want to start clearing your on-hold product with potential foreign material contamination? Contact our team of experts today at [email protected].

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