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Resources for characterizing foreign bodies

Physical contaminants

Foreign objects or physical contaminants are among the least commonly cited causes for food recalls and that's fine. One of the fundamental reasons for this situation is that they are often visually noticeable before the food product is consumed .

On the other hand, agrifood companies are doubling their efforts and worrying about it on a daily basis to ensure that this danger remains low and that incidents related to foreign bodies do not cause health problems for consumers.

The main foreign bodies that are likely to be found in food are:

  • Plastic

  • Hair and body hair

  • Wood

  • Paper or cardboard

  • Soil particles , sand or small pebbles

  • Metal

  • Glass or brittles

  • Fish bones and bones in general

  • Eggshells

  • Piece of rope , thread or textile material

  • Tendons

  • Crustacean shells and fish scales

  • The shell or piece of shell of the nuts or crustaceans

  • Tools ... yes!

  • Equipment parts ... Oops!

The list is indeed long but the physical hazards concerning foreign bodies are the subject of a specific identification for each type of production, which means that these foreign bodies do not all have to be monitored for each agrifood company.

Identification of foreign bodies

Depending on their size , shape , color , etc. several foreign bodies will be easily identifiable . In addition, some are monitored and eliminated during production, such as fine metal particles, using metal detectors in use in the food industry.

With detection systems using UV or X-rays it is now possible to more easily detect the finer material, the fragments of shell, bone, wood, plastics or other composite materials. Although some of these technologies are still expensive to buy, they are gradually spreading in the food industry.

One problem that occurs occasionally is characterization/identificaiton a foreign body that you have to manage when dealing with a client/customer complaint. You must therefore characterize/identify what it is in order to determine if it can indeed come from your establishment.

It is therefore important, for these cases, to include in your complaints management system a step to identify, characterize and evaluate the foreign bodies which are submitted to you in the context of a complaint or a claim that could sometimes end-up being expensive to settle.

What if you don't know where a foreign object is coming from?

The first step is to do your internal investigation using the procedure you will have prepared for handling complaints. You can also treat these cases as client/customer non-compliances and use your procedure for resolving CARs and non-compliances .

If you identify the foreign body and it comes from your company; then the complaint is justified and probably you will proceed with its treatment according to your procedures and measures in place for the management of complaints.

If you are unable to identify/characterize the foreign body submitted to you, do not conclude too quickly that it does/does not come from your establishment. The X-ray diffraction and other methods offered by some applied research institutions can help to elucidate the case and at a much cheaper cost than you would think.

We are able to help you identify a resource to help you characterize the foreign objects you have to deal with when submitting a complaint to you or during a CAR or non-compliance . It will help you to see more clearly, not to react too quickly and to manage these situations in order to respect the regulatory and normative compliance requirements and those of your customers (including those stipulated in the GFSI standards). This will allow you to identify the root cause of a problem and resolve a CAR or non-compliance if the foreign object in question comes from your facility or even avoid costly claims if it does not.

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