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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, October/November 2005

Tasty Technology

Seasoning manufacturer eliminates contamination effectively and efficiently with metal detection and separation technology.

by Ray Spurgeon

For the past six years, Copenhagen, Denmark-based Chr. Hansen, a manufacturer of blended seasonings, has operated a plant in Elyria, Ohio. There, the company manufactures custom flavor blends for a variety of food manufacturers, including Tyson Foods, Frito-Lay, Shearer’s Chips and Freshmark.

The company is part of the Chr. Hansen Group, which develops and produces natural food ingredients, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics for specific allergy disease management and biotechnological products for the human, animal and industrial markets.

To create their custom seasoning blends, however, the company utilizes a large quantity of raw ingredients, which constantly flow into the plant from various sources.

For example, Chr. Hansen’s makes a proprietary seasoning blend for Frito-Lay Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings. The raw materials, like the onion ingredient, can come from just about anywhere — India, Israel and local Ohio farmers, etc.

In fact, Chr Hansen uses between 3,000 and 4,000 different raw materials to manufacture its custom seasoning blends. This makes maintaining superior quality an ongoing challenge. And since Chr. Hansen’s highest priority is product consistency and quality, potential problems of this nature are addressed proactively.

E-Z Tec screen shots
E-Z Tec screen shots

One particular quality concern for Chr. Hansen was “tramp metal” contamination that could possibly enter the product stream from any one of the thousands of raw material ingredients. Tramp metal is unwanted metal in the product stream, a common quality control concern for all process industries. That’s when the company began exploring metal detection and separation technology.

Application Analysis

Since the feedstock could be contaminated, metal detection at the input point of the Chr. Hansen process seemed an appropriate safeguard. It stood to reason that even if the contamination did not necessarily damage process equipment, product that would eventually be rejected by detectors at the output side could result in much processing cost wasted as a result of undetected contaminated feed.

However, a careful evaluation of the application and potential implementation costs by application engineers determined that, with nearly 4,000 ingredients flowing into the process stream, checking all incoming raw materials would prove time-consuming, costly, tedious and, ultimately, counter-productive. Metal contamination could potentially come from anywhere – raw materials, shipping and packaging, or even Chr. Hansen’s own processes.

As a result of the evaluation, Chr. Hansen determined that employing metal detectors at the output of the process was a better choice. Such a location prevents the release of contaminated product, aids in the identification of failing process equipment and reduces the company’s liability for contaminated product.

With the detectors in place, Chr. Hansen now checks its products for contamination after manufacturing. The company grinds, pulverizes, blends, and then packages its products. Next, products are run through metal detectors to search for metal contamination. In so doing, operators can isolate and eliminate any contamination quickly and economically.

The metal detection equipment employed by Chr. Hansen can find a piece of metal contamination as small as one millimeter. Damon Gambino of Chr. Hansen explains that the extraordinary capabilities of the metal detection equipment they utilize help his company uphold its rigid quality standards by identifying contamination of any size or type.

“Industry standards are to find metal pieces from 1.5 to 2.0 millimeters in size, but the equipment allows us to catch contamination much smaller than that,” says Gambino, “Plus, [these] products enable us to pinpoint and eliminate both ferrous and non-ferrous metal contamination,” he adds.

Chr. Hansen uses four metal detectors and three magnets. The equipment is typified by multi-processor based electronics, which includes a sophisticated digital signal processor. The particular metal detector model used by Chr. Hansen can operate as a stand-alone unit or networked to a central computer. The state of the art metal detector has inherited all the reliability, ruggedness, accuracy and flexibility characteristics of modern electronics wedded to computer science. Such detectors can solve many formerly intractable problems, such as detection and rejection of very fine non-ferrous materials in free-falling products.

Another metal detector model employed by Chr. Hansen has a 4–inch high by 5–inch wide angled control and backlit screen allows the user to quickly make changes to the metal detector without having to scroll through different menus. Product set–up, monitoring and operating the metal detector is done with a touch screen interface. Numeric data and value entries are made through the on–screen keypad.

The innovative metal detection equipment is proving to be a sound investment for Chr. Hansen. The company recently experienced an FPA (Food Products Association) Audit and did extremely well. According to Gambino, auditors were particularly complimentary about the metal contamination detection process.

Ray Spurgeon is assistant product manager for the Eriez Metal Detection Division. Reach him at 814-835-6000 or rspurgeon@eriez.com.

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