Consumers, Cultivation/Production, Equipment/Technology, Fresh/ Table, Health/Nutrition/Food Safety, North America, Retail

‘Finding a needle in a potato sack’: Potato farmers prioritize inspection systems to ensure food safety

Potatoes, a staple in many households, have a consistent global demand. With the North American potato market contributing over US$100 billion to the economy, farmers are keen on adopting inspection solutions to protect their produce and reputation.

A decade ago, warehouses on Canada’s Prince Edward Island (PEI) underwent a transformation. Farmers in this region, responsible for 25% of Canada’s potato production, adopted raw material inspection systems. This was in response to incidents in 2014 when needles were found in PEI potatoes, leading to a significant recall.

Eric Garr, Regional Sales Manager at Fortress Technology, says, “After metal contaminants were found in PEI potatoes, our client wanted to ensure their produce was safe. This led them to invest in three of our industrial-sized metal detectors, each capable of inspecting 140,000 pounds of potatoes every hour.”

The importance of food security

In today’s digital age, food contamination can quickly tarnish a brand’s reputation. Eric warns, “Brand damage from such incidents can be devastating.”

Contaminants aren’t limited to needles. Discarded soda cans, machinery parts, or storm-damaged wire fencing can introduce metal fragments into crops.

To address these concerns, Fortress Technology developed a custom Phantom metal detection system. This system, designed for an East Coast crop processor, ensures the highest standards in the potato supply chain.

Innovative machine design

Potatoes present unique challenges for metal detectors due to their varying sizes, moisture content, and soil residue. Fortress’s solution was a special VLF (very low frequency) coil that treats all potatoes as dry products. Additionally, the BSH rugged casing ensures stability, especially when potatoes collide with the system’s sides.

Eric explains the challenge of detecting needles, “The orientation of a needle within a potato can affect its detection.” Fortress’s rolling-system design ensures that potatoes move through the detector, increasing the chances of detecting contaminants.

Space constraints and the need for efficient reject systems led to the development of a roll-through design without a traditional belt. Eric says, “This design allowed us to introduce a flap for expelling contaminated products.”

The system was integrated seamlessly with existing cleaning and grading systems, offering an efficient solution.

Shared responsibility

The food sector’s focus has shifted from merely identifying hazards to actively preventing them. Eric notes the importance of shared responsibility and upstream inspection.

He concludes, “While product tampering is rare, we’ve seen an increase in inquiries from farmers for robust detection systems to safeguard their brand.”

Source: Fortress Technology. Read the original news release here
Photo: Credit Fortress Technology

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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