OPTICAL SORTING AS A NECESSITY
Cross-contamination, or the presence of unexpected food matter in a supposedly homogeneous food type, is a serious issue that can have significant implications for the global food industry.
To combat the issues of contamination, many food manufacturers, processors and retailers are embracing the ever-changing technologies and systems available to them. TOMRA Sorting Food’s machines use a variety of sensors which go far beyond the common use of color cameras. Near Infra-Red (NIR) spectroscopy enables an analysis of the molecular structure of a product whilst x-rays, fluorescent lighting and lasers measure the elemental composition of objects. As well as its color and shape, an object’s surface structure and biological fingerprint can be effectively analyzed.
REDUCE THE ACCIDENTIAL SPREAD OF ALLERGENS
An important reason for the identification and removal of contaminants is to reduce the accidental spread of allergens. This is particularly important since the societal impact of causing an allergic reaction in an unsuspecting member of the public can have substantial repercussions, not only financially and legally, but also in terms of brand reputation.
SAY NO TO FOOD WASTE
Although relatively well-known, cross-contamination does not end with allergens. Due to variations in national food standards, the issues caused by cross-contamination can have a negative impact upon the global movement of food. For example corn, a commodity the US grows more of than any other country, can be grown naturally or genetically modified (GM). This difference is suitable for domestic markets but can cause issues internationally.
It is estimated that the United States exports between 10 and 20 per cent of its corn yield to global markets, the sales of which had a reported value of $7.6 billion in fiscal year 2014. When this is married with the fact that half the home nations within the European Union forbid the growing and importing of GM corn, organic corn from the US that has been cross-contaminated with its modified counterpart cannot be sold. This results in reduced yield efficiencies, increased food waste and diminished financial returns.
In addition, the scale for potential cross-contamination extends beyond savoury foods and into confectionary. Vitamin enhanced gummies are growing in popularity and many manufacturers have different products for adults and children - type A and type B respectively. Due to the varying vitamin dosages found in both, it’s imperative that gummies with a type A dosage do not cross-contaminate any with a type B dosage, as this could invariably lead to children consuming gummies with a vitamin dosage designed for adults.
BENEFITS OF CROSSING OUT CONTAMINATION:
- Food safety
- Reduced opportunities to cause harm to consumers
- Reduction of food waste
- Optimised yield
- Protect your reputation
Bjorn Thumas, director of business development at TOMRA Sorting Food, has written a thought leadership article on crossing out contamination. Read all about it in our news section.