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Rock out: Ready Foods uses x-ray technology to keep stones out of its packaged foods

Ready Foods, a custom food processor in Denver, CO, that produces items for several national chain restaurants and specializes in delivering custom-made food products to small and medium-sized restaurant chains, had been using Eriez  E-Z Tec Metal Detectors to detect and remove metal fragments from their process. However, the company found that metal detectors alone were not capable of detecting other dangerous objects, such as stones.
Stones are sometimes picked up during the harvesting of crops such as beans. Knowing this, Ready Foods wanted to prevent the stones from traveling further down the processing chain and into its final bean product.
To this end, Ready Foods installed a custom-built Eriez E-Z Tec x-ray inspection system. If stones are identified in one of the bean packages, the system rejects the pouch containing the foreign object from the line before it is unintentionally shipped to restaurants.
The x-ray machine also has improved detection of metal in the pouches. Because the x-ray machine does not operate on a balanced field design, its sensitivity is not negatively impacted by the conductivity of thawed product. The result is a 400 percent improvement in sensitivity to stainless contaminants.
Eliminating guesswork from the pre-purchase decision
Eriez’ field sales engineers surveyed the Ready Foods production line before the design and manufacture of the E-Z Tec custom x-ray system. “With a capital purchase of this magnitude, we personally visited Eriez (which is located across the country in Erie, PA) and took a tour of their modern facility,” recalls Greg Hefter, plant engineer at Ready Foods. “They house a large test lab that enabled us to test our product to determine what we could expect from this technology, it took all the guesswork out of the equation.”
The Eriez E-Z Tec x-ray inspection system can inspect virtually any discrete packaged item, continuous bulk product flow or pipe line application. The system identifies contaminants, scans for missing or broken products, detects packing voids, confirms fill levels, and controls product and package mass.
Product inspection is achieved through a computer-controlled family of low-energy generators and a high-performance computer image analysis system. This enables E-Z Tec to detect small statistical variations in the product that signal contamination or deviation from accepted specifications.
The E-Z Tec image processing software provides immediate analysis, detection and rejection. The system logs the date, time and type of reject. It also saves an inspection image of the product so product inspectors can view the contaminant.
Combining x-ray with metal detection
“The Eriez X-Ray System is located on our packaging line off of our v/f/s pouch machine. It is effective at detecting foreign objects in our pouches and automatically rejecting off-spec products,” says Hefter. “This is especially important as the x-ray machine serves as a critical control point in our process and, without it, we cannot run production.
“We have been able to inspect product for other foreign material undetectable by metal detectors,” Hefter adds. “We have been able to make setting adjustments, which allows Ready Foods personnel to visually inspect and confirm foreign materials. Even items that would not cause an automatic reject have been detected.”
Metal detection continues to be an important quality control tool at Ready Foods though. The food manufacturer now uses both x-ray and metal detection technology for enhanced product safety, equipment protection and regulatory compliance. “We continue to use Eriez metal detectors as our first line of defense, but with the installation of the Eriez X-Ray System, we have taken steps to minimize our exposure and the risk of foreign objects being in our product,” says Hefter.

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