Foreign Material Management
The 4 types of hazards leading to food borne illness would include biological, chemical, physical and radiological. The term hazard indicates a potential to cause harm. Examples of physical hazard would include glass, sharp pieces of metal, bones, wood, hard plastic shards or ceramics or stones. These objects could cut or damage the mouth, throat, intestine and gums. Some of these items could also become choking hazard to young children and babies. Foreign material or body refer to physical hazards.
The term physical contaminant is more broad based and include those which cause harm and those that may not such as stored product insects, small pieces of food grade gaskets, food grade lubricant, pieces of clean plastic film packaging materials, metal fines and others.
Physical contaminant is one of the biggest sources of customer complaints for a number of food manufacturers and retailers. The accidental or deliberate inclusion of unwanted items can sometimes occur in even the well managed processes and a crisis management programme should be set up to handle any food recall incidents.
Statistics involving foreign materials or bodies from the Reportable Food Registry, US FDA revealed the following: -
Year 1: 8 Sept, 2009 -> 7 Sept, 2010 (1.3% caused by foreign object)
Year 2: 8 Sept, 2010 -> 7 Sept, 2011 (1.3% caused by foreign object)
The first approach to managing foreign materials would be a risk assessment conducted on raw materials, equipment, processes and products for physical contaminants. Based on the assessment, appropriate measures would be undertaken to prevent, eliminate and control foreign materials. In general, such measures would include the following appropriate controls on: -
- Receiving practices including inspection of incoming goods, test and examination on sampled materials
- Storage practices including stock rotation
- Operational and sanitation practices
- Building designs and equipment maintenance practices
- Delivery controls
- Use of foreign material control devices with procedures on managing these
- Training and education
- Documented programmes on the above including crisis management
Detection devices often include, but are not limited to metal detectors, filters, sieves, X-rays, strainers, magnets and de-stoners. The use of wood in the facilities should be controlled and limited. Glass procedures prohibit glass in production areas unless essential glass that is needed for use and areas are identified where the use of glass utensils or instruments is permitted. There are effective procedures for the prevention of glass contamination and a documented management programme for glass and rigid container packaging lines. Lights are shielded with non-breakable, non-glass material in processing and warehouse areas. Ceramic and brittle plastics are also managed like glass items.
HACCP and strong prerequisite programmes would be an ideal approach to managing foreign materials whereby the controls of CCP would enhance the monitoring, detection and rejection of those found.
All efforts should be undertaken by food and beverage plants to ensure that effective programmes are in place to prevent any foreign materials adulteration as they could result in financial losses caused by customer complaints or recalls.
Some of the future research on detection devices included the use of ultrasound, nuclear magnetic resonance and microwave technology but until the cost is made reasonable and to manage without any potential harm to the users, these technologies will still remain under studies.