Ensuring product quality and safety in the dairy industry


Processing and distributing dairy products necessitates a high level of quality control and strict adherence to regulatory requirements. It is paramount that dairy products are safe for consumption, free of a range of potential bacterial and physical contaminants.

The goal is always to keep consumers safe and protect the brand’s reputation while managing pressures to contain costs and operate efficiently.

Dairy product safety and quality can benefit from the use of inspection/detection equipment. There are multiple places on the processing and packaging line where installing these systems can positively impact the quality, accuracy and safety of the food item being marketed.

The specific inspection solution is dependent on the product characteristics, placement in the line (before or after packaging) and inspection/detection objectives.

A further complication is the expanding range of packaging materials on the market, such as shelf-stable, biodegradable, metalised and transparent properties and variations in sizes from individual portions to large multipacks.

Selecting the right inspection, detection technology depends on product attributes and materials, as well as the production environment

Historically, detecting foreign objects in dairy products has been challenging. Traditional metal detectors are often fooled by what is called a “product effect” in cheese and other high-moisture, high-salt dairy products. These products have conductive properties that affect the magnetic field and trick the detector into generating a signal indicating metal is present when it is not. Accordingly, dairy producers tend to deploy them for a limited group of products, such as novelties and other liquid-fill items. They are also found in gravity applications for dry powders, but a lack of product consistency can cause problems.

The Thermo Scientific™ Sentinel™ Multiscan Metal Detector utilises an innovative new technology to overcome the limitation of fixed single or dual frequency metal detectors that can miss metal contaminants hidden in product signals. Multiscan technology scans a combination of up to five user selectable frequencies from 50 to 1000 kHz. This enables users to identify contaminants that are up to 70% smaller in volume than was previously detected on single and dual frequency detector technologies, reducing the probability of escaping detection to near zero. It is like having five metal detectors in one, to provide unmatched sensitivity and the highest probability of finding ferrous, non-ferrous, and stainless steel metal contaminants in challenging dairy applications with high product effect.

Overcoming the product effect in metal detection in dairy inspection

All metals, whether iron, stainless steel, brass or aluminium, react differently to an electromagnetic field, which is the principal underlying metal detection in products. These reactions change based on shape, size, orientation and position. Add to this unwanted electrical interference and vibration effects found in production facilities and you have the potential for metal foreign objects to go undetected. Dairy products have additional challenges created by moisture, salt and high mineral concentration that can create a strong product specific signal that may mask detection of smaller signals generated by contaminant.

The Sentinel detector offers an entirely new approach to this challenging problem. You no longer must pick the “best” frequency for an application or try running some combination of fixed dual frequencies. Instead, you select 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 frequencies, to screen your product and test any/all the types of contaminants of concern to see which frequencies work best. The Sentinel detector immediately shows what is happening at each frequency such as signal levels, detections and changes in phase angle. If one frequency seems to be doing all the work, simply adjust it to see if you can do better. If there is noise on a frequency or it doesn’t provide protection in your application, disable it. It is that easy, fast and flexible.

When metal detection doesn’t work

In applications where the Sentinel multi-frequency metal detector is unable to meet the inspect requirements Thermo Scientific recommends X-ray inspection. X-ray systems now are also easier to use, more reliable and more affordable whilst providing additional capacity, not only finding foreign materials but checking for quality defects such as missing or broken components.

For more information: thermofisher.com/productinspection

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Kadmy

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