The Canadian fish and seafood industry is one of the country’s largest food export sectors. Lobster, crab, salmon and shrimp are some of the country’s biggest exports, and a surge in aquaculture has resulted in record industry highs in recent years. Aquaculture’s popularity is not limited to Canada – this global phenomenon has led to an increase in seafood production in recent years as population growth, increased per capita consumption and rising income levels in countries such as China drive growing demand for seafood.
Though China is now the biggest global seafood exporting nation, Canada remains at the forefront of fishery sustainability and conservation efforts. The country’s federal government presides over everything from setting quotas to establishing marketing standards and safety inspections. Safety inspections in particular are undergoing some new changes; the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently published 133 pages of new regulations up for public consideration, covering everything from fruits and vegetables to seafood. This is part of an international trend, as countries around the world begin to enact preventative food safety and traceability measures.
Metal detectors and the seafood industry
Preventing food contaminations and foodborne illnesses before they happen are an important part of modern day food manufacturing. Traceability is equally important to the manufacturing process, as companies need to be able to react quickly based on hard data in order to recall products and locate a contamination source as smoothly as possible should an unfortunate event occur. As such, food grade metal detectors have played an increasingly vital role in food manufacturing companies since the 1980s.
Modern industrial metal detectors are especially useful, as they can now provide detailed information on everything from the time a contamination occurred to the type of contaminant detected inside of a product. Though other contaminants exist, metal represents the single most common type of contaminant, given how often food products come into contact with everything from stainless steel processing equipment to workers’ personal effects, such as a brass button.
Food grade metal detectors play a particularly important role in the seafood industry, since marine creatures are often caught using metallic devices (including but not limited to hooks). Marine creatures can also ingest metallic products throughout their lifetime, creating another potential source for contamination. All metal contaminants must be detected and removed prior to leaving a factory, as they can pose serious health hazards to human and even to animal consumers.
Customization is the key
‘Balanced coil’ metal detectors are the most commonly used in the food industry, and come in different configurations to suit different types of food products. For instance, there are conveyor-belt systems for many common packaged products. There are also pipeline configurations for viscous products such as sausage filling or processed fish pastes popular in many Asian countries that need to be pumped through the metal detector in order to be effectively inspected for contamination. Some industrial metal detectors also work by gravitational force, with products such as coffee beans being poured through a metal detector configured with a vertical pipe. Other detectors, known as ‘ferrous in foil’ detectors, are created to pick up on metal contaminants in foil-wrapped packaging, which could not otherwise be detected by conventional balanced coil metal detectors.
Balanced coil systems can easily pick up on ferrous metal contaminants such as iron, and even non-ferrous metals such as copper with a little more effort. They can work on a multitude of products, whether fresh or frozen, including but not limited to meat, dairy, fruits, grains and vegetables. However, stainless steel is extremely difficult to detect. Furthermore, high levels of salt and water, in addition to the odd shapes and sizes of seafood can confuse a metal detector, making an entire product seem as though it were made of metal. As a result, seafood can pose particular problems to standard metal detectors.
While many metal detectors come with a certain degree of customizability, taking as little as a week to configure, seafood manufacturers often need to rely on entirely new custom food grade metal detectors. Though custom builds can take up to ten weeks, seafood manufacturers should not attempt to skip steps when it comes to food safety in this modern day and age. Not only are new governmental inspections and regulations increasingly strict, with heavy fines for those who don’t toe the line, tech-savvy consumers are quick to cause a media storm when poor or even misleading manufacturing practices come to light. All it takes is one picture of a chipped tooth or a cut lip for a company’s reputation to be dragged through the mud. Customized industrial metal detectors must be used to ensure that the high levels of salt and water do not hinder a manufacturer’s ability to guarantee food safety and to provide an immediate recourse in the event that a problem does occur.
With so many metal detectors for food industry available, there is no reason why any manufacturer should not be taking the appropriate steps to ensure food safety. While seafood manufacturers may have to resort to custom configurations depending the product in question, their products should be just as safe for human consumption as any other. As the demand for seafood continues to grow in Canada and around the world, safety must not be compromised in the goal of producing more products at a faster rate. With proper metal contamination prevention plans put in place, it is perfectly possible for manufacturers to meet increased demand, as well as new safety regulations such as the Safe Food for Canadians Act.
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