Product inspection and protection in the bakery industry

Posted October 28, 2011 in Product Inspection
Product Inspection in the Bakery Industry

Effective product protection is essential in the bakery industry these days. Bakers have to ensure that their products are free from metal contamination for the safety and wellbeing of their customers, and also deliver a quality product. The application of quality control and product inspection is monitored at every stage of the manufacturing process, and regulators expect nothing less than the highest standards of safety. To ensure that these standards are maintained the quality control practices are verified and assured by independent inspectors such as the European Food Safety Inspection Service (Efsis) and British Retail Corporation (BRC).

There has been considerable innovation in the bakery sector in recent times, with the traditional staple of sliced bread making way for an array of exciting breads and baked products that have appealed to consumers' increasingly sophisticated tastes. These developments have created the need for total product inspection solutions. Manufacturers of metal detection equipment and product protection systems has responded to this challenge, by producing a range of customised metal detectors that guarantee the very highest levels of product quality and brand integrity.

Why does metal detection in the bakery industry present such a challenge? 

•    The bakery industry is unusual in that it deals with products that both vary in temperature and moisture content. These difficulties can potentially give false triggers and lead to the rejection of perfectly good produce.
•    The bakery industry often has to manage multiple products on the same process or packing line. This diversity demands frequent adjustment of machine settings during product changeovers.

Any metal detector used in this production process has to be accurate, easy to configure and maintain and be able to provide consistency and stability on production lines. The very best metal detectors on the market today utilise a unique “change free running mode” that enables the settings of multiple products to be combined, thus eliminating the need to re-set the machine during product changeovers. The most important requirement for any reliable metal detector is the ability to generate a stable and perfectly balanced electromagnetic field. The new mechanised production techniques employed by the bakery industry have contributed significantly to a major transformation in the design and performance of metal detection equipment to ensure field stability.
In recent years, this has led to major investment by companies like Lock Inspection, one of the world’s leading metal detector and product inspection manufacturers, to move away from the traditional hand built methods to automated production techniques, thus ensuring that the metal detector is accurately assembled with reliable repeatability and perfectly formed coil assemblies which do not require pre-balancing during manufacture or re-balancing when installed in the food processing line. The introduction of programmable laser profiling machines, programmable case bending machines to control internal stresses, automated case alignment and programmable welding machines have all enhanced the performance and reliability of modern metal detectors.

How does the inspection process work?

Baked loaves are transported along a conveyor and are inspected for metal contamination as they pass through the aperture of the metal detector. Metal contamination can either be present in raw materials or can be introduced during manufacturing processes. If metal is detected, a reject device operates and pushes the contaminated loaf directly into a reject bin. The product can be rejected by a number of different methods, depending upon the specification of the machine used. It can be ejected by an air blast, a pushing mechanism, a diverter arm, a lift-flap, a driven drop-flap or a retracting band reject option. The suspect product is then examined with sophisticated software to determine the nature of the contamination:  the possible causes of contamination can then be investigated and rectified.