Between July and November 2019, the UK Food Standards Agency has issued three food alerts regarding metal contaminated food products. This brings the total number of metal-in-food contamination alerts to eight for 2019. This is a rise from four in 2018 and six in 2017. In all cases, the Food Standards Agency stated that ‘The presence of metal makes this product unsafe to eat and presents a safety risk’.
The Latest Metal Contaminated Food Alerts
In July, Quorn Foods recalled Quorn Cocktail Sausages because the products may contain small pieces of metal.
Bunlimited Crispy Onions, a product range sold in the UK supermarket chain ASDA, was recalled by Dutch food producer Struik Foods because of concerns regarding contamination with small pieces of metal in September 2019.
The latest food safety alert is regarding Bernard Matthews who recalled packs of Nine Turkey Dinosaurs because they may contain small pieces of metal. These are sold in the UK supermarkets ASDA, Tesco and Iceland.
The latest three cases are related to very different food products, highlighting that any processed food is at the risk of being contaminated by small pieces of metal. Although the cause of the metal contamination is unknown, it often occurs due to changes in the process, the breakdown of processing equipment, poor protection, or human error. Nevertheless, the resultant cost, in terms of reputation and money, are significant.
Ensuring Metal-Free Food Produce
Processed foodstuffs carry a high risk of metal contamination. Such metal is often traced back to damaged or broken processing equipment, contaminated feedstock, and the accidental introduction of metal during maintenance work. Major food retailers such as Marks & Spencer have implemented strict guidelines to prevent occurrences of metal-contaminated food reaching the consumer. These guidelines include regular audits.
Metal contamination is removed during the manufacturing process with magnetic separators and metal detectors. High strength, Rare Earth magnetic separators attract and hold magnetically susceptible metals including fine work-hardened stainless steel from processing equipment. Metal Detectors are commonly used at the end of a process as a final check prior to and post packing. Any metal contaminated products are removed for disposal or re-processing.
There is a wide range of magnetic separator and metal detector designs to suit any application. It is necessary to understand the process and the potential contamination problem before recommended the optimum solution. This often forms part of an audit of a food processing plant.
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