Inspection Systems Ensure Product Quality and Safety
While Providing Essential Help with FSMA Compliance
By Robert Rogers, Senior Advisory for Food Safety and Regulation, Mettler Toledo Product Inspection
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in January of 2011, and updated
several time since, places the
responsibility for food safety squarely
on food producers, with requirements
that will come into force as all
portions of the Act are finalized and
implemented. FSMA also gives the
One of the critical assets that food companies can use to
comply with FSMA requirements is systematic, machine-based
inspection of products and packages to detect and reject
contaminated or otherwise non-compliant products or packaging,
while maintaining accurate, complete records of those actions.
The Role of Automated Inspection Systems
Checkweighing systems weigh packaged products to ensure
that stated package weights are accurate and to ensure packages
are correctly filled. Underweight packages expose the company
to regulatory penalties; overweight packages give away product.
Weighing is done on the fly at production-line speeds and does
not slow production.
Metal detection systems inspect products to ensure that they
are free from metal contamination that may have been included in
raw materials or dislodged from processing equipment (especially
screens) during production. The newest systems employ multi-simultaneous frequency technology to detect contamination
reliably and without false rejects. Versions of these systems are
available to inspect both products moving on conveyors or through
X-Ray inspection systems inspect products for both metal
and other types of contamination –– glass, bone, stone, certain
plastics, etc. –– and remove contaminated products from
the production line. The newest systems use highly sensitive
detectors, which means that their X-ray generators require less
power, reducing energy costs and extending unit life without
affecting inspection capability.
Machine vision systems use cameras, lights and sophisticated
software to inspect products, packages and labels for defects.
Vision can detect malformed product, low or high fill levels of
liquids or powders, cocked or insecure closures, incorrect labels
or labels with wrinkles that cover vital ingredients, etc. These
label inspections are critical capabilities, since the FDA reports
that almost half of all recalls it orders are due to mislabeling, and
especially to the omission of allergens from ingredient lists.
All inspection systems are designed to be as compact as
possible so they fit into or over existing production lines, requiring
no breaking into the line. Their controls interact with each other
and with the control systems of the production line so that line
speeds and inspection speeds are coordinated
Data collection systems instantly collect inspection and
rejection data in a central location and make it available on
demand in the event of a system performance review or an FDA
This capability is invaluable: it offers insight into the
performance of your production operation, often pinpointing
bottlenecks and other problem areas, facilitating continuous
improvement efforts that lead to increased efficiencies.
Sophisticated, high-speed, efficient inspection equipment can
be deemed costly when viewed as a capital cost. However, these
are well-built machines that perform continuously and tirelessly
for years. Viewed in terms of their long-term assurance of quality,
product safety and protection against recalls and even liability
lawsuits, they are in fact a wise investment that provides an
almost immediate measurable return.
Robert Rogers, Senior Advisor for Food Safety and Regulation at
METTLER TOLEDO Product Inspection Group, serves as a subject
matter expert to various regulatory and industry organizations
such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Grocery
Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Packaging Machinery
Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) and writes articles and blogs about
this critical industry issue. He can be contacted directly at robert.
email@example.com or by telephone at (813) 342-9138.