Packing and Food Safety -
Modern Packing Methods and Test Methods
are the Guarantee for Safe Food
The demands in food are high. Only companies that master and check the packing process get safe products. Whether deficiencies in the packing material, filling material residuals in the heat-sealed seam or foreign bodies - leaks and contaminations present a threat to the product safety. This is why from 20 to 23 March 2018, Anuga FoodTec in Cologne is placing a special focus on modern methods for checking leaks and X-ray inspection.
Whether meat, fish and poultry or fruit and vegetables: A protective gas atmosphere (modified atmosphere) is one of the effective methods for packing fresh foodstuffs gently and safely. Packing in which the normal ambient air is replaced by an optimised atmosphere comprising of carbon oxide, oxygen, nitrogen and argon, protects the product reliably and extends the sell-by date in the refrigerated shelf - provided that it is not damaged by product residuals being trapped inside the sealed seam or there are no leakages. If there are leakages in the sealed seams or packing material, which the protective gases can escape from and moisture can seep in through, a reduction in the quality and premature spoilage is foreseeable. Defective products can be recognised and discarded in a timely manner after the packing procedure using the appropriate equipment.
Leak testing made easy
Inline and offline leak testing systems for individual packaging and entire transport packaging can be found at Anuga FoodTec. The spectrum ranges from random tests in the water bath, to visual inline inspections, through to gas-based technologies that detect leaky packing. One option of subjecting MAP packing to a leak test is based on the generation of a vacuum and the implementation of carbon dioxide as a testing gas. The inspection involves the protective gas packing passing through a measuring chamber after the packing process. In the case of leaks, the gas escapes and is detected by the sensor. Integrated into the packing line, the modern real-time systems detect the slightest leakage and micro leaks - what's more at speeds of 120 packagings and more per minute. Especially for span batches of MAP-packed fresh cut products, this is an economic solution because the testing gases can either be added to the protective gas or are already contained in the protective atmosphere.
X-ray inspection illuminates everything
For the manufacturers it is just as important as immaculate packing that the food reaches the consumer free from metal, foreign bodies and other contaminations in line with the HACCP and IFS norms. Metal detectors or X-ray scanners like the ones that will be on display in Cologne ensure safety at the end of each packing line. Metal detectors provide valuable assistance in detecting magnetic and non-magnetic metals. However, they do have their limits in the case of glass, ceramic and stones. X-ray scanners are used for these materials. In recent times more and more often appliances that are based on the dual energy technology are joining the single energy systems on the market. Since they work with two energetically different X-rays at the same time, the systems provide detailed images even in the case of irregularly shaped and frozen products. They differentiate between materials based on their chemical composition and trace splinters of metal and plastic as small as 0.3 millimetres long as well as flat glass or bones. Their strengths lie in the packing of overlapping meat products as well as mixtures with contents that have greatly varying thicknesses, which are typical for salad mixtures and muesli.
Weighing technologies for seamless checks
With innovative technologies for the X-ray inspection and leakage testing, the manufacturers are being provided with the right tools to protect the integrity of their products and avoid products being called back. The exact recording of weight values is equally important. What could be more logical than bundling these core competences? The high-performance lines that will be in action at Anuga FoodTec combine packing functions with demanding detection and weighing technologies within an holistic system. Whereas the checkweighers and multi-head weighers guarantee the exact weight, the leakage detection checks each individual tray for escaping gas and the X-ray scanner identifies possible foreign bodies. In this way, packing with contaminations or the wrong weight can be reliably discarded.
Images: R. Eberhard, messekomapkt.com, EBERHARD print & medien agentur gmbh