Usually, the food industries rely on X-ray technology to inspect harmful things like metal or glass. But can X-ray technology inspect more?
Moreover, few manufacturers have issues with implementing X-ray technology to inspect food products. Either their staff may object to using X-rays in the working place. Or else, consumers may switch to another brand that doesn’t adopt X-ray inspection.
But it’s high time that we should explain to our customers that they need not worry about using X-ray technology for inspecting the food products.
Hence, this article elaborates on the efficiency of X-ray inspection to assure food quality and safety during its manufacture in a single pass. Moreover, this article will explain the need for using X-rays for food inspection and the safety characteristics of this electromagnetic radiation.
Why Use X-rays to Inspect Food Products?
A rise in customer expectations and line speeds has put high pressure on food manufacturing companies to implement high-quality methods for product examination. Hence, food manufacturers use X-ray technology to ensure food quality and safety.
Unlike other inspection methods, X-ray technology can exceptionally detect ferrous metals, nonferrous metals, and stainless steel. Moreover, a high-level X-ray inspection can detect foreign objects such as bone, rubber, stone, plastics, and glass components.
X-ray technology can simultaneously conduct a detailed in-line quality check such as identifying broken or missing components, assessing seal integrity, determining mass, checking fill levels, counting parts, as well as examining damaged products or their packaging. Moreover, it can measure the volume, area, width, and weight of the product at a high line speed.
There are no legal issues to use X-ray technology. Still, there are certain guidelines followed by manufacturers to implement consistent and reliable product inspection methods. These guidelines include Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), and additional customized standards by retailers.
By integrating these high-level X-ray inspection systems during product development, the manufacturers can stay assured about the quality and safety of the product. This inspection helps product manufacturers follow national and international standards, as well as local legislation regulations created by retailers.
Doing so can avoid product recalls and consumer disappointment. Moreover, it helps to maintain the brand name.
How Does X-ray Inspection Work?
X-rays are invisible rays. Similar to light or radio waves, X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). Since the wavelength of X-rays is shorter, it can penetrate the objects that are impervious to visible light. But it doesn’t pass through all objects easily. It’s because the transparency of an object to X-rays is always connected to its density. That’s why X-ray inspection is helpful in the food sector.
If the target object is denser, only a few X-rays can penetrate it. That’s why foreign objects such as metal and glass in the food can be displayed through X-ray examination. It’s because these foreign objects can absorb more X-rays compared to the surrounding product.
In this inspection method, the X-ray system is the scanning equipment. Hence if the packaged product passes this X-ray imaging, it captures a gray-scale image of that product. The software associated with this X-ray imaging analyzes this gray-scale image of that packaged product and compares it with a predetermined acceptance standard. Based on the comparison, it either accepts or rejects the final image.
In the case of an acceptance, this software sends a signal to the acceptance system followed by proceeding with the production line. In the case of a rejection, this software sends an instant signal to an automated reject system. It will then eliminate the packaged product from the production line. Similar to a light bulb, the X-ray system can be switched on or off whenever required.
Our Uni X-ray develops and manufactures X-ray machines to determine foreign bodies in the given food product by transmitting images of the food contents. The external foreign objects include bones, metals, glass, stones, plastics, etc. Hence, our X-ray imaging technology works as a fully automated food quality control system. Not only our X-ray technology detects foreign objects but it also performs various functions simultaneously. It can also detect the weight, shape, and internal defects. It is not a problem for our X-ray system to detect foods with high humidity or packaging supplies containing metals. Our advanced X-ray inspection systems also confirm that the sensitivity of detection is completely improved.
How Safe Is X-ray Inspection of Food Products?
Before explaining the safety aspects of X-rays in food products, let us first understand what radiation means.
Rays emitted from the radioactive source are referred to as radiation. There are two major sources of radiation: natural and artificial. Natural radiation includes rays from the sun, ground, or from naturally radioactive elements. Artificial radiation includes microwave rays from the oven and X-rays from an X-ray tube.
The X-ray beam is a type of electromagnetic radiation, similar to light rays. X-rays are used for various purposes. It’s because the wavelength of X-rays can penetrate any material to a larger extent, unlike visible light. It’s the density of the target object that really decides its transparency to X-rays. Hence, X-ray inspection is highly adopted in the food sector.
Regarding the safety of X-rays, they are always safe. The level of exposure to these X-rays otherwise referred to as ‘radiation dose’, is always very low in food inspection. The exposure time and the quantity of X-rays used are also very low. Its dose rate is comparatively higher in medical X-ray examination, security check, or food irradiation.
The radiation dose is expressed in Sievert (Sv). Since a low level of radiation is used in food inspection, the units such as millisievert (mSv) or microsievert (μSv) are commonly used. The rate of radiation dose determines the rate at which X-rays are absorbed over time. Its unit is μSv/h (where h refers to a number of hours).
Here are some shocking facts regarding exposure to radiation. Every person is exposed to 2400 μSv per year on average. For instance, consuming one 150-gram banana every day can expose a person to 36.5 μSv per year. Pilots or cabin crew absorb 2000 μSv per year approximately.
When it comes to food products, X-ray penetrates through them only for 250 milliseconds. In this shortest duration, the food product receives only 200 sGy (0.2 mGy) radiation dose during the inspection. Moreover, there is research evidence which proves that X-rays are safe for foods without causing any harm. A 1997 World Health Organization (WHO) study revealed that radiation up to 10000 Gy on foods does not affect their nutritional value or safety. However, there is no research evidence of any risk on health at doses below 20000 μSv per year. Hence, X-ray inspection on foods is completely safe.
Furthermore, there are more precautionary measures while using X-ray systems.
As per the US regulations, the maximum permissible level of radiation leakage should not exceed 5 μSv/hour. However, as per the ROW regulations, it should not outdo 1 μSv/hour.
X-ray is an artificial radiation. Hence as mentioned already, they can be switched on or off as and when required. Once we switch it off, the supply of X-rays ceases instantly.
Moreover, when you buy the X-ray equipment from a renowned manufacturer, proper safety instructions will be provided to ensure safe use. It will also prove safe to the one who operates the equipment without causing any negative effects on the testing products.
Are you planning to adopt an X-ray inspection? Our X-ray inspection systems are completely CE-certified. They comply with the safety standards including the American Standards 1020.40 CFR as well as the Ionizing Radiation Regulations, 2017. Moreover, our systems adhere to local regulations as well. Following these safety guidelines ensure that even the staff personnel who is going to operate the X-ray system will remain safe.
Our X-ray equipment is created with the X-ray generator placed inside the electronically interlocked cabinet system. Moreover, we use highly dense materials as the absorbers of X-rays while passing through the target object. Hence, we have created an X-ray instrument from stainless steel. Even copper is also incorporated for extra containment of the X-rays.
Once we install the X-ray equipment and issue a certificate, it is subjected to a critical radiation survey after installation. This will avoid any accidental exposure.
Hearing the word ‘radiation’ can evoke misunderstandings among the customers. It’s very common to get scared of using radiation in food products. But they need not worry about that. We all humans always get exposed to low-level radiation in our day-to-day lives. As this article elaborates, the level of radiation dose for X-ray inspection in the food sector is very low. Hence, this dose will never affect the food’s texture, flavor, nutritional value, or safety. Its use is highly regulated by strictly following the safety guidelines.
The real issue actually arises from the physical contaminants in the food. This is where our Uni X-ray technology can efficiently detect and reject the contaminated food from the manufacturing line. Moreover, our advanced X-ray system creates a safe working condition within the food sector. The operators should follow only safety regulations. That’s it.
Hope this article justifies the safety and efficiency of using X-ray inspection system in food industries. Hence, it is high time for all food manufacturers to adopt advanced X-ray technology in improving food quality and safety.