Safety is a major consideration when choosing which brands of food processing equipment to buy. Nuts and bolts of equipment can create a serious safety issue in food processing. Objects like fragments of metal, plastic, etc. can fall from equipment and into food forcing the user to the potential safety hazard of fixing the equipment. This was the subject of two observations in an FDA Warning Letter issued to the CEO of a baked-goods facility, according to Quality Assurance Magazine:

 A mesh-belt conveyor carrying bagels through the proofer was broken and missing pieces in several places. The shape and size of the missing pieces of mesh-belt conveyor material were consistent with reported customer complaints the firm received.

Several metal spikes were broken and/or missing from the metal cylindrical aerator used to perforate the in-process dough. There was no metal detector or other protective measures in place to detect metal.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21 states, “Effective measures shall be taken to protect against the inclusion of metal or other extraneous material in food.” Although the CFR notes that compliance can involve using sieves, traps, metal detectors, or other methods of detecting and capturing metal, it is best to prevent metal fragments in the first place.

One significant cause of fragments in food is poorly maintained equipment and lines, according to an FDA report. Pieces of equipment can break off of equipment and enter food products during processing if the equipment is poorly maintained, so preventive maintenance and routine inspections can minimize the risk of this safety issue.

Additionally, an FDA guidance document is written for fisheries, but applicable to all food processors, notes the following are also common causes of metal fragments in food, according to Quality Assurance Magazine:

● metal-to-metal contact (e.g., mechanical cutting or blending operations and can openers)

● equipment with metal parts that can break loose (e.g., moving wire mesh belts, screens, portion control equipment, metal ties, etc.) are likely sources of metal that may enter food during processing.

In that document, FDA says a routine examination of processing equipment can help prevent the hazard of metal inclusion. A visual inspection, however, may only be realistic with relatively simple equipment. More complex equipment that contains many parts, some of which may not be readily visible, may require controls such as metal detection or separation, according to Quality Assurance Magazine.

Not only does improper maintenance and inspection increase the risk of harming a consumer, but selling any hazardous product can cause customers to lose trust in your brand and products.