How the Contaminant Removal Process Works

Although there are several different ways to detect foreign materials in food, X-ray inspection is the most effective way to locate and eliminate physical contaminants. 

As more cases of physical contamination of food are reported and the number of recalls prompted by contaminants continues to rise, X-ray inspection becomes increasingly more valuable to food manufacturers. And, for many food producers, the next step of that process is to allow FlexXray to remove contaminants from the food.

One of the benefits of X-ray inspection is that it curbs food waste, which directly affects costs. Rather than disposing of an entire production run and trying to absorb those costs, manufacturers can locate and dispose of only the product that has been contaminated, immediately reducing the amount of food waste. 

Taking the step to remove the foreign contaminant can help identify where there might be a problem and prevent it from happening again.

employee removes contaminants from chicken

What Happens When a Foreign Contaminant is Located in my Food?

When FlexXray finds a contaminant in a product, we offer our customers three different options for taking action. 

  1. The first is to return the contaminated food to the client for disposal. In this case, the food is segregated, clearly marked with red tape and returned to the food producer’s facility.
  2. A second option is to allow FlexXray to dispose of the contaminated product, which saves the manufacturer the time, money and paperwork associated with the disposal process. What it doesn’t do, however, is allow traceability to pinpoint the type of contaminant that was found and where it might have come from.
  3. Finally, the third option is to choose FlexXray’s contaminant removal process. Contaminant removal is becoming more prevalent for companies that want to maintain their commitment to less food waste, while at the same time save money and prevent such incidents from reoccurring.  

FlexXray’s Contaminant Removal and Reporting Process 

After an initial inspection using our advanced medical grade X-ray equipment shows the presence of a contaminant, FlexXray offers the option of removing the contaminant and providing the food manufacturer with a full report on what was found. 

When a company chooses to have the contaminants removed, a skilled line technician will perform a second inspection and manually dissect any contaminated product.

To do that, the technician will carefully remove the contaminant and catalog the results so that plant managers have evidence of the actual contaminant. Our reporting includes such important details as the pallet, batch/lot, bag/container time, contaminant type and the size of each contaminant retrieved during our inspection. The contaminant is attached to our reporting form so there’s physical evidence for better traceability.

Once the technician has logged all the relevant information, an electronic scan is made and emailed to the customer so that they’ll have immediate results and can begin taking appropriate action. Next, the original documentation — with the actual foreign contaminants attached — is sent overnight so that the customer will have the physical documentation in hand the next day.

This process answers questions about what type of contaminant was involved and allows for more thorough documentation.

inspecting products

How Contaminant Retrieval Improves Traceability

One of the greatest benefits of the contaminant removal process is that it allows traceability through every step of the inspection process. As our food supply becomes increasingly global, and food is being processed at a greater volume than ever before, the risk for contamination increases. And that, in turn, increases the need for traceability.

At each touchpoint in the food production chain, there’s an opportunity for contamination. It can come from products indigenous to the plant or animal’s original environment, such as rocks, sticks or other matter found in the field. 

But it also can be introduced to the food at any point after that in the steps required for processing. Being able to retrieve and identify contaminants allows food producers to pinpoint where the contamination occurred and evaluate the overall scope of the problem.  

In cases where the contamination was the result of an error within the manufacturing facility, either human or mechanical, managers can gain insight into where problems might exist and can take immediate steps to resolve them.

Sometimes, the contaminant was included in ingredients sent to the manufacturing facility. The type of contaminant found will typically indicate at what point it entered the food. If it came from a supplier, FlexXray’s contaminant removal and documentation provide the information needed to address that problem. 

In some cases, manufacturers might be able to recoup some of the cost of contaminant removal from suppliers when they are able to document the source of the contaminant.

Using this type of documentation is a way to see where problems might exist in the food supply chain and could influence decisions on which suppliers they use. At the very least, it gives food producers the additional insight needed to make the right decisions, implement more safety measures where needed, provide further training or take other actions.

What Products Are Good Candidates for FlexXray’s Contaminant Removal Process?

FlexXray is equipped to offer contaminant removal on all types of products, including:  

Because our facility is temperature-controlled, and we also have temperature-controlled trucks for foods that require refrigeration, we can provide contaminant removal services for frozen foods.

Our services can be used at any point in the production process, from supply to finish, and we provide warehousing and product re-bundling to keep your distribution plan on schedule.

Although contamination from foreign materials is on the rise and will continue increasing as our food supply becomes even more dependent on processed food, it doesn’t mean that manufacturers have to suffer the costs of food waste or, even worse, a costly recall or lawsuit. 

Using FlexXray’s contaminant removal service can minimize the amount of loss, pinpoint where the problem originated and provide the information needed to keep it from happening again.