From the time food is harvested up to the point where it reaches your house it touches a lot of plastic. Foods are processed on top of the plastic, carried in plastic lined containers as well as stored and reheated in plastic containers. In a factory, the plastic has to go through complicated processes as machines do everything from heat seal to blister pack and from bottling to canning, and the plastic has to stay strong. It is for this fact that this plastic should be safe for use in the food processing process.
For manufacturers making plastic safe to use in food processing is vital. This is because without proper care food can get contaminated with plastic materials. If food is contaminated with plastic material, it poses a health hazard to people who might ingest it. Another effect of product contamination is a callback. There isn’t any food processor who wants to be told their products have to be called back since it means they go through a huge loss.
Avoiding plastic contamination in food is a number one priority to food companies that use a lot of plastic in their processing. Here are some ways to make the plastic safe in food processing.
Adhering To Government And Globally Set Regulations
There are numerous regulations and guidelines set for food processing companies that are to safeguard the consumers’ interests. Such guidelines dictate how plastic should be handled in a food factory regardless of the stage of production that is taking place. These guidelines also control the use of materials such as pens which have small parts that might be undetectable if they contaminate food.
Use Of Detectors
Since their first use by Mars in the U.K. over 50years ago metal detectors have reduced the risk of metal contamination in food. But metal detectors, as well as X-ray inspection system, are unable to detect ordinary plastics. Fortunately today modern detectable plastics are used in food processing. The plastic types are made from food-safe materials. Other additions to these detectable plastics are metals which will naturally trigger the metal detectors. Also, there is an addition of other elements which are responsible for raising the plastic’s density levels to make it noticeable to the X-ray inspection systems.
It is essential that these additional materials achieve being detected without interfering with the normal functioning of the plastic functioning parts of the equipment. Additives should be applied with care so that they reach the desired level of detectability which is evened out throughout the material. A careful application will come in handy when identifying broken pieces which pass through a detection system and where the part has broken from.
Perform Prior Testing
Detectability depends on a lot of factors, such as line speed and orientation, inspection machine settings, and the nature of the contaminated product. It is good practices to keep these data so that estimating contamination becomes easy. It is a smart idea for food producers to deliberately place detectable in products and test for them using their metal detectors or X-ray inspection systems. This helps to understand how good their detectors work and how contamination can be detected if it occurs.
Replace Plastic Tools With Detectable
As mentioned earlier detectable are plastic materials which contain additives that make it easily detected by metal detectors or X-ray inspection systems. Plastic tools and materials used in the processing areas increase the risk of plastic contamination in food products. If these plastic tools are swapped with detectable ones, then the likelihood of plastic contamination drastically reduces. Detectable designs should function as well as the standard plastic option as well as meet set standards.
More food companies are opting for the use of detectable tools since they can specify its function and engrave its information of the surface. This makes it easy to identify the part, and in case of contamination, the part’s origin can be identified.
Use Of A Color Coding System
A color coding system will work both for traditional plastic and detectable plastic. Color-coded tools reduce the risk of using a toll in unspecified areas such as areas vulnerable to contamination. This also improves food security by reducing the risk of microbial cross-contamination from one food product to another through the use of the same tool. Color coding makes plastic materials more visible even to the human eye, and in case of contamination, the incident can be controlled quickly.
The use of plastics in the food processing industry is inevitable, at least for now. This makes improving plastic that comes into contact with food a huge priority for food companies. If such companies follow set guidelines and procedures, then plastic can be safe for use. Thorough product screening will also help identify plastic contamination in early stages.
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