Sorting the good from the bad: A smart investment in food safety
Data revealing aflatoxins to be the biggest cause of food-related recalls demonstrates the important role effective sorting and quality analysis systems can play in boosting food safety on the production line, says TOMRA Sorting Food.
The first quarter European Recall & Notification Index, produced by Stericycle Expert Solutions, found that aflatoxins – a fungal toxin that contaminates crops - were behind 21 percent of all food recalls, followed by salmonella, pesticides/fungicides, metal fragments, chemicals, listeria, insects and E. Coli.
And despite an overall drop in food recalls on last quarter of 2014, there was a 67 percent increase in recalls relating to nuts, largely as a result of issues with products coming from India and China. Those originating in China spread to 13 countries and were primarily due to aflatoxins.
Ashley Hunter, head of TOMRA Sorting Food, says that implementing sorting technology can significantly reduce the risk of contamination from aflatoxins, mycotoxins and foreign material, driving up food safety on the production line and offering a smart investment for processors and manufacturers.
He adds: “Delivering high quality, safe food is good for business! The reputational and financial impact of a product recall can be devastating for a company. Effective food sorting and analysis equipment have a huge role to play in consumer and brand protection so implementing these processes makes good business sense - good food safety performance protects consumers which in turn protect the corporate brand.
“The data from Stericycle Expert Solutions demonstrates the challenge faced by food processors operating within a global supply chain. The food industry is growing significantly and facing productivity, economic, efficiency and environmental pressures more than ever before. Increasing demand on the world’s food resources has made today’s food supply complex and multifaceted and whilst a global supply chain brings many benefits it also presents a major food safety headache. The longer and more complicated the chain is, the higher the risk of contamination and spoilage.
“In addition, increasing exports and imports mean food processors and manufacturers have to comply with numerous cross-border regulations. In some cases, imports are from countries where safety standards are lower than in the EU or US, making it all the more necessary to ensure food sorting and analysis systems operate in line with emerging food safety issues.”
Ashley says the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the US is food for thought for nations around the world.
Taking a ‘prevention is better than the cure’ approach, the act makes food safety the responsibility of all links between field and fork and encourages a coordinated domestic and international strategy.
Whilst the idea of prevention is not new, the recognition that for all the strengths of the US food supply chain, a breakdown between farm and fork can have a disastrous impact and cause significant economic loss to the food industry.
TOMRA Sorting Food is a leading provider of food sorting machines and processing technology for the fresh and processed food industries. The company’s focus on research and development has enabled it to develop a range of innovative sorting machines which are able to detect and remove the smallest of defects and foreign material from production lines.
TOMRA machines use a variety of sensors which go far beyond the common use of colour 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. The internal composition and surface structure of objects can also be analysed to determine good or bad produce.
Ashley says: “The benefits of sorting technology are far-reaching. Beyond food safety and brand protection, it enables processors to deliver consistently high quality products to their customers, maximising yield and profit whilst reducing food waste – a great concern for the supply chain as the world’s population continues to grow.
“As safety regulations and the demand for food have increased, optical and sensor-based sorting has become a requisite rather than a luxury for many producers who have previously relied upon manual sorting and inspection.”
“Furthermore, processors are also increasing the number and variety of sorting and analysis machines on their lines to ensure they are eliminating poor quality product and foreign material as much as possible. With millions of individual product items passing through every hour, robust systems which can detect and remove the smallest of contaminants are vital in managing food safety on the production line,” says Ashley.
Find out more information about food safety management and how TOMRA Sorting Food is helping processors deliver safe, high quality food here.
For more information on TOMRA Sorting Food, visit www.tomra.com/food.