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Protecting food products from contamination

Metal detectable gaskets and magnetic separators help food manufacturers meet strict food regulations and safeguard their product quality

In today’s food processing industry, manufacturers face two key challenges when it comes to safety and quality regulations; eliminating metallic and non-metallic contamination and reducing static build up within their plant machinery. Thankfully, food processing equipment suppliers have developed a range of solutions that can be easily integrated into existing machinery to solve these issues.

With the risk of damaging reputation and accruing potentially crippling costs, preventing metal contamination within products is a major focus for the food industry and as a result, manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to eliminate this risk. Metal contamination can come in many forms, including nuts, bolts, metal tags, screen wire and fragments from failed parts. This has led to metal detection becoming a massive business within the food industry. The first industrial metal detector was developed in 1947 by founding company Goring Kerr, with Mars Incorporated being one of the first customers to use their metal detectors to inspect mars bars. Today, metal detection is standard practice in the food industry to ensure finished products meet established specifications.

Metal detection systems such as magnetic separators are available to eliminate the risk of ferrous contamination and in turn improve product quality. Russell Finex’s easy-clean Magnetic Separator™ is one of the latest innovations of magnetic grid separators. The magnet instantly attracts ferrous particles and securely holds them onto its bars, keeping unwanted material out of food products. The number of bars in place is optimized to strike the right balance between coverage of open space and magnetic field strength without restricting throughput rates. The easy-clean design allows for quick and easy cleaning between batches. Instead of being welded directly to the ends of a bulk food sieve, the magnetic bars are attached to a central support beam, leaving free space between the bar ends and the frame. This allows ferrous material to be wiped to the end of the bars, where it can be easily collected as it falls away.

In addition, through the advancement of materials, non-metallic contamination can also be tackled. Although strict dress codes ensure items such as jewellery and hair clips cannot enter the process, new metal detectable materials have been developed which allow other non-metallic items to be picked up by metal detectors. This includes equipment componentry such as seals and gaskets.

As well as contamination, another significant challenge faced by many food manufacturers is the build-up of static electricity or electrostatic discharge in mechanical equipment. Over the years many companies have risked or experienced dust explosion due to static build up. To help minimize this, in 2003 the ATEX directive was introduced covering all aspects of explosion prevention including problems associated with electrostatic discharge caused by mechanical equipment.

To ensure there is no static build up in equipment earth continuity is required. However, since most equipment requires dismantling for maintenance and cleaning this introduces the need for seals and gaskets which essentially break the earth continuity. Therefore, this means earth tags, straps or braids need to be fitted to bridge the gap. Although this ensures earth continuity is maintained, it can reduce functionality of equipment, making operation more difficult or increasing maintenance downtime.

Russell Finex’s metal detectable, magnetic attractable and conductive (MDAC) magnetic gasket is the 3-in-1 solution to these issues. Combining these three attributes into one gasket makes it the safest solution available for vibratory sieves. This metal detectable gasket has been developed to provide optimum detectability for the food industry, so in the unlikely event that a fragment enters the product stream it will be detected by any metal detector or magnetic separator, preventing potential contamination from moving any further down the process line. The gasket is conductive, meeting requirements set out by the ATEX directive. Fitting the gasket to a bulk food sieve removes the need for earth tags or clips ensuring earth continuity is maintained within the sieve.

To find our more about range of innovative upgrades and customisations are available for food processing and separation equipment, contact Russell Finex.