Food Processing Equipment News
HACCP vs. HARPC: The Role of Temperature, Hazard, and Risk in Food Processing
by Adam Fleder, President, TEGAM, Inc.
(For more info, please visit: http://www.tegam.com)
What’s the Difference?
The most pressing questions for food processing facilities managers are: Which standard applies to my facility? Is it only the USDA regulations based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standard? Or is my facility now regulated by the FDA under the just implemented rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)? That act requires a different written food safety plan than HACCP according to the Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) in FSMA. Or might my facility now be dual-regulated under both sets of regulations?
In fact, multiple food industry commentators have noted that there is some confusion about which regulatory requirements apply to food processors. On the surface, the answer appears clear cut. The USDA regulates meat, poultry, and egg processors based on HACCP. Those regulations are administered by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) within the USDA. Note that HACCP is not a legislative mandate, but rather, a global industry standard adopted as a regulation by both the USDA and the FDA1.
In response to a rise in cases of foodborne pathogens, the FDA promulgated FSMA. Congress passed the act, establishing a legislative mandate that implements a new approach to food safety. The difference between the two, in part, lies in the distinction between the definitions of “hazard” and “risk”.
According to the Toxicology Education Foundation, “A hazard is anything that can cause harm, whereas risk is the potential that a hazard will cause harm. You can think of it this way: A hazard will not pose any risk to you unless you are exposed to enough of that hazard to cause harm. Risks associated with hazards can be zero, or greatly reduced by reducing exposure. The relationship between risk and hazard can be simplified as2:
RISK = HAZARD x EXPOSURE
For food processors, one hazard is the potential for pathogens growing in processed food products. The risk is the probability of a consumer becoming ill after eating a food product containing a colony of harmful pathogens. The risks for a food processor are two-fold.
The foremost concern is (or should be) the potential health risk to consumers due to foodborne illness. Second, the supplier of the product identified as the cause of the
illness faces significant business risks. These include negative press due to a food recall, legal expenses to litigate or settle lawsuits, production line downtime, inventory lost or destroyed, and lost sales to name a few.
1 Food Quality & Safety Magazine, The Evolution of HACCP, by John G. Surak, Feb. 1, 2009. Online at: http://www.foodqualityandsafety.com/article/the-evolution-of-haccp/?singlepage=1 2 Toxicology Education Foundation, May 28, 2015 at: http://toxedfoundation.org/hazard-vs-risk/
The third part of the hazard-risk equation is reducing the exposure. Biochemists have proven that the nine most common foodborne pathogens will not grow below certain minimum temperatures. Food processors who incorporate these well-known temperature controls during processing steps will reduce or eliminate the hazard and thereby the risk to both consumers and the business.
The Regulatory Shift
The FSMA marks a dramatic change in the intent and emphasis of U.S. food regulations that had been in effect for the past 70 years. Under the prior regulations, the FDA reacted to any foodborne outbreak after the fact. FSMA shifts the regulatory focus to a proactive stance aimed at preventing food contamination from “farm-to-fork.” Although the legislation was signed into law in 2011, it has taken the FDA over five years to formulate and finalize the regulations and begin implementation. The Preventive Controls for Human Food deadline is August 30, 2016. Effective dates for the Final Rules vary per the following chart:3
Implementation periods for small and very small businesses extend implementation by one year and two years, respectively.
The change to a proactive stance is reflected in the differences that come after the “HA”, meaning Hazard Analysis, in both acronyms. The principles of HACCP originated in the NASA space program to assure that the food consumed by humans in outer space would be safe. NASA mandated the use of Critical Control Points (CCPs) in its design engineering process, but applying the same concepts to food production was new. This approach required food suppliers to identify “critical failure areas” and eliminate them from the system.4 This set the stage for the development of HACCP as an eventual voluntary global industry standard. In contrast, FSMA legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in January 2011 mandates Hazard Analysis and Risk- based Preventive Controls (HARPC) as the food processing industry’s regulatory standard. For both HACCP and HARPC, compliance begins by identifying and analyzing hazards.
HACCP vs. HARPC -- The Devil is in the Details
In 1989, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) published the first official HACCP document, standardizing the practice and
3 The Association of Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Companies at: http://www.gmaonline.org/file- manager/FSMA%20Compliance%20Dates(5).pdf 4 TraceGains Insights Blog, HACCP and HARPC: Key Differences and Definitions, by Chelsey Davis, 8/20/15 at: https://www.tracegains.com/blog/haccp-and-harpc-key-differences-and-definitions
presenting the seven principles of HACCP. A brief summary of the HACCP principles appears in the appendices, as does the core of HARPC, the food safety plan mandated by FSMA. Links to both government regulatory sites are listed in Appendix A.
At first glance, HARPC requirements may look quite similar to HACCP. According to the FDA Federal Regulations for implementing FSMA, the core of HARPC starts with a Food Safety Plan. Even though HACCP and HARPC appear to have similarities, let’s summarize the important differences.
HARPC shifts the regulatory emphasis from reactive to a protective and preventive mode. In the past under HACCP, regulators did not spring into action until outbreaks of foodborne illness occurred.
HARPC is mandated by U.S. law, while HACCP is a global non-mandatory standard adopted as a rule by both the USDA, administered by FSIS, and the FDA.
HARPC applies mandatory science-based preventive controls across the food supply chain. Food processors must also establish science-centered Risk-Based Preventive Controls. This extends beyond Critical Control Points defined by HACCP. Section §117.135 of the FSMA regulations specifically mentions Process Controls, Food Allergen Controls, Sanitation Controls, Supply-Chain Controls, a Recall Plan, and Other Controls.5 This differs from HACCP because HARPC enforces preventive controls to identify potential risks or threats to the food supply. It also requires food processors to implement appropriate corrective actions proactively.
HARPC does not require the science of critical limits as does HACCP (Principle 3). According to Cornell University, a critical limit is defined as “a maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food-safety hazard.”6 For the hazard of foodborne pathogens, the risk-based preventive controls in HARPC will still equate to critical limits. You might ask, “Why?” Under FSMA, the FDA has a legislative mandate to require comprehensive, science-based preventive controls across the food supply.7 Therefore, the same science-based critical limits of maximum and minimum temperatures during processing steps in HACCP still apply under HARPC.
Perhaps the most significant difference: HARPC extends risk-based preventive controls beyond in-plant processes to a food processor’s entire supply chain.
5 Ibid. 6 Cornell University, p. 73, available online: http://seafoodhaccp.cornell.edu/Intro/blue_pdf/Chap07Blue.pdf 7 FDA, “Background on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), available online: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm239907.htm
This last point raises a secondary question: Does your facility sell commercial products that are used as ingredients in your customers’ products? If so, then your facility is also regulated by the FDA under FSMA because the act specifically covers compliance by upstream supply chain vendors, including foreign suppliers. Examples of FSMA regulated products include raw products used as ingredients in pizza toppings, soups, and ready- to-eat packaged foods.
The Hazards of Pathogens and Risk-Based Preventive Temperature Controls
HARPC hazards analysis requires food processors to implement preventive controls to “provide assurances that any hazards requiring preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented...” The occurrence of foodborne illnesses drove the FDA’s development of FSMA. As evidence of this concern, “process controls” is the first item listed under the preventive controls section (§117.135) and is defined as follows:
“Process controls include procedures, practices, and processes to ensure the control of parameters during operations such as heat processing, acidifying, irradiating, and refrigerating foods. Process controls must include, as appropriate to the nature of the applicable control and its role in the facility's food safety system:
(i) Parameters associated with the control of the hazard; and
(ii) The maximum or minimum value, or combination of values, to which any biological, chemical, or physical parameter must be controlled to significantly minimize or prevent a hazard requiring a process control.”8
The minimum growth temperatures for the most common foodborne pathogens has been well-established in scientific studies as shown in Table 1 below9:
8 Cornell University, Ibid. 9 Chart from “Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations With The Greatest Burden on Public Health,” by Batz, Hoffmann, and Morris, available online: https://folio.iupui.edu/bitstream/handle/10244/1022/72267report.pdf
Going one step further, the following chart ranks the disease burden caused by the most common foodborne pathogens. The rankings are based on the illness’s impact on quality of life plus the costs of the illness.
Temperature Measurement in Food Processing
The relationship between food processing, temperature, and the hazard of pathogens is well documented. Quality control personnel can meet the risk-based preventive control for this hazard by measuring temperatures at critical in-plant control points. However, if proper care is not taken, even the measurement equipment and process can introduce hazards.
Although not specifically required in FSMA regulations, FSMA rules are sprinkled with references to maintaining electronic records. Written records are included as an option as well. Unfortunately, paper and pencil temperature data collection introduces an additional source of potential pathogen contamination. For example, dropping the pencil or clipboard during measurement could introduce contamination to the food being processed. In addition, time-consuming data acquisition and recording on fast moving processing lines introduces the potential for data entry errors.
Unfortunately, poorly designed automated temperature solutions may also cause problems. Many typical thermometer case designs may be awkward to handle and can accumulate grease, dirt, or other residues. FSMA regulations require clean equipment.
One of the best alternatives to pen-and-pencil data management is an automated temperature measurement solution purpose-built for use in food processing. In-plant process temperature measurement acquisition requires accuracy, speed, and cleanliness. Such an automated solution complies with the most demanding design requirements, including a rugged design that withstands drops, shock, vibration, and frequent wash- downs. As a result, it operates reliably over long periods in harsh environments. Operationally, it is also very helpful to quality control personnel if it displays statistical data in real-time.
An automated data capture and storage solution eliminates error-prone paper-and-pencil recording of data. In the ideal situation, the operator simply inserts the probe, while the data logging thermometer automatically captures and records the time-stamped measurements. To facilitate data analysis and reporting, the thermometer then transmits results to either a local cloud server or vendor-neutral cloud storage via built-in wireless connectivity such as Bluetooth.
Although FSMA rules make multiple references to maintaining electronic records, they are not currently mandated. Written records are still included as an option. That said, FSMA requires that facilities be able to access HARPC records within 24 hours, which can be a problem for paper-based systems. Electronic data storage, with appropriate data set identification, can greatly accelerate record access and reporting.
Conclusion: HACCP, HARPC, or Both?
We began by posing the question: “Which standard governs my facility, HACCP or HARPC?” The simple answer: Meat, poultry, and egg processors still operate in the USDA/FSIS regulatory environment under HACCP. However, HARPC also includes a
regulated food processor’s supply chain. On the surface it may appear that your facility is only regulated under HACCP rules. However, it’s important to ask yourself if your facility supplies products that are used as ingredients in your customers’ products. If so, your facility may be dual-regulated and subject to both HACCP and HARPC requirements.
In either regulatory environment, temperature measurement of the foods being processed is crucial to preventing the growth of foodborne pathogens. One of the best solutions is an easy-to-handle, ruggedly designed automated temperature measurement solution. This eliminates the potential for recording and transcription errors of pen-and-pencil methods. Designed with built-in wireless connectivity to a vendor- neutral cloud environment, this solution creates a data repository readily accessed within minutes, well within the 24 hours required by FSMA. In conclusion, if there’s any question, meet both requirements. Although it may seem cumbersome, a written HACCP plan takes you a long way to meeting HARPC requirements. Take the few extra steps.
Appendix A – Additional Reading I. The Seven HACCP Principles
Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis. ● Plants determine the food safety hazards and identify the preventive measures
the plant can apply to control these hazards.
Principle 2: Identify critical control points. ● A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step, or procedure in a food process at
which control can be applied and, as a result, a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable level. A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical, or physical property that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.
Principle 3: Establish critical limits for each critical control point. ● A critical limit is the maximum or minimum value to which a physical, biological,
or chemical hazard must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the hazard to an acceptable level.
Principle 4: Establish critical control point monitoring requirements. ● Monitoring activities are necessary to ensure that the process is under control at
each critical control point. FSIS requires that each monitoring procedure and its frequency be listed in the HACCP plan.
Principle 5: Establish corrective actions. ● These are actions to be taken when monitoring indicates a deviation from an
established critical limit. The final rule requires a plant's HACCP plan to identify the corrective actions to be taken if a critical limit is not met. Corrective actions are intended to ensure that no product injurious to health or otherwise adulterated as a result of the deviation enters commerce.
Principle 6: Establish record keeping procedures. ● The HACCP regulation requires that all plants maintain certain documents,
including its hazard analysis and written HACCP plan, and records documenting the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities, and the handling of processing deviations.
Principle 7: Establish procedures for verifying the HACCP system is working as intended.
● Validation ensures that the plans do what they were designed to do; that is, they are successful in ensuring the production of safe product. Plants will be required to validate their own HACCP plans. FSIS will not approve HACCP plans in advance, but will review them for conformance with the final rule.
● Verification ensures the HACCP plan is adequate, that is, working as intended. Verification procedures may include such activities as review of HACCP plans, CCP records, critical limits and microbial sampling and analysis. FSIS is requiring that the HACCP plan include verification tasks to be performed by plant personnel. Verification tasks would also be performed by FSIS inspectors. Both FSIS and industry will undertake microbial testing as one of several verification activities.11
II. HARPC Requirements for the food safety plan (§117.126)
(a) Requirement for a food safety plan. (1) You must prepare, or have prepared, and implement a written food safety plan.
(2) The food safety plan must be prepared, or its preparation overseen, by one or more preventive controls qualified individuals.
(b) Contents of a food safety plan. The written food safety plan must include: (1) The written hazard analysis as required by §117.130(a)(2); (2) The written preventive controls as required by §117.135(b); (3) The written supply-chain program as required by subpart G of this part; (4) The written recall plan as required by §117.139(a); and
(5) The written procedures for monitoring the implementation of the preventive controls as required by §117.145(a)(1);
(6) The written corrective action procedures as required by §117.150(a)(1); and (7) The written verification procedures as required by §117.165(b).
(c) Records. The food safety plan required by this section is a record that is subject to the requirements of subpart F of this part.12
III. U.S. Regulatory Sites
FSMA: Final CGMP & Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) for Human Food http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334115.htm
USDA/FSIS Pathogen Reduction & HACCP Guidance Documents
11 “Key Facts: The Seven HACCP Principles,” by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA, Rev. January 1998 at:
12 Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, “Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 117, Subpart C -- Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls,” by the U.S. Government Publishing Office at: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text- idx?SID=e8a441b5672985b0fc94280d70b55bb5&mc=true&node=pt21.2.117&rgn=div5#se21.2.117_1126
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory- compliance/haccp/pr-and-haccp-guidance-documents/pathogen-reduction- haccp-guidance
When developing your Food Safety Management System (FSMS), a key area to focus on is allergen control and management. This is one of those hazards that has evolved over time and can now be seen in the media on almost a daily basis—mislabeled allergens are one of the most common recalls—and can have dire consequences if not properly controlled. With more than 50 million Americans having some kind of allergy, you will need to ensure that you have a compre- hensive program in place to control allergens within your facility, whether you are manufacturer, retailer or foodservice provider.
While 90 percent of all allergic reactions can be attributed to eight types of food—eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy—there are other less common allergens that consumers are concerned with. Therefore, it is important to really understand your product and educate your team on allergen management.
Here are some tips on developing a robust allergen management program.
Know Your Products:
Sources: Know your suppliers—are they reputable, do they handle any allergens, what is their allergen management program?
Raw Material/Ingredients: Know what is in the ingre- dients that you are using to prepare your product. Does it contain an allergen), is it made in a facility that handles allergens, has it been exposed to cross-contact, does your packaging introduce any allergen concerns?
Having a comprehensive supplier approval and management program will assist in ensuring that all your incoming materials have the same strict control measures that you require inter- nally to reduce the risk of an adverse situation.
Train Your People:
Management: Does your management team know what allergen management means and can they commu- nicate with and instruct their teams on how to control allergens within your facility? Do they drive awareness and compliance on your allergen program?
Receivers: Does your team know how to handle any allergen related raw materials that are coming into your facility, do they know where and how to store allergen
containing items and can they communicate any issues that they find?
non-allergen areas. Finally, production scheduling enables you to use an allergen matrix to ensure proper scheduling to reduce changeovers and avoid cross-contact potential and proper allergen sanitation when moving from allergen to non-allergen.
Label correctly: Ensure that labels correctly list the necessary ingredients and highlight any allergens that are contained in the product or that the product might be exposed to in the preparation environment and ensure the use of correct labels and that correct ingredients are used during preparation so allergens are not accidentally introduced.
How you handle allergens within your facility will determine your level of risk and likelihood that an incident will occur. Based on the number of recalls out there that are caused by mislabeling of allergens, there appears to be more preventive action that the industry can do to really get control over allergen control and management.
Other Considerations to Make When Developing Your Allergen Program:
Traceability throughout your supply chain: Having a robust process for tracing all materials from source to end user will make it easier to address any adverse situations (such as a recall) that may occur—whether that is inadver- tently adding an incorrect ingredient or using the wrong label for a particular product. A fast reaction to this type of error could mean life or death to someone with severe allergies.
Risk Assessment/Management: Utilizing risk tools will assist in the proactive identification of allergen hazards and should include such tools as HACCP, supplier/material review and approval, inspection/monitoring and corrective action.
In conclusion, having a comprehensive FSMS that includes robust allergen control and management processes will ensure that you are keeping your customers safe and happy. Using technology that assists in automating and streamlining these processes will benefit you greatly. Be smart and be safe!
Paula, the innovative Polish food processor, produces dried fruits and vegetables for worldwide distribution to private label customers. To maximize product quality while increasing production throughput and reducing labor, they turned to Key Technology for conveying and weighing equipment.
“We wanted distribution shakers that would help us achieve our high quality standards while reducing maintenance. We also wanted fully automated weighing hoppers that would provide a precise dose and an even spread of product to the microwaves. We spoke with several suppliers and selected Key,” said Marcin Sosnicki, Sales and Marketing Manager at Paula. “Of all the suppliers we spoke with, Key stood out in terms of their experience and their technology. Key’s level of service, from both a technical engineering point of view and from a commercial point of view, was brilliant.”
Paula’s state-of-the-art facility in Kalisz, Poland has a high-capacity production line, which features proprietary microwave-vacuum dryers that produce dried fruit and vegetable snacks with superior flavor and texture. Eight Key weighing hoppers load the eight microwaves and sixteen Impulse™ electromagnetic shakers bring the product from the pre-drying stage to the weighing hoppers.
“The Impulse shakers are very low maintenance, which helps us maximize our production throughput by reducing downtime. They are also very easy to sanitize, which helps us achieve the highest product quality. And they operate very quietly. The price of the equipment was money well spent,” noted Sosnicki.
The Impulse vibratory shakers feature frame-mounted electromagnetic drives and StrongArm™ spring arm assemblies that distribute energy equally to all parts of the conveyor bed in a controlled, natural frequency operation. The harmonic motion moves product forward gently and efficiently Dedicated solid-state controls allow the conveying pan amplitude to range from zero to 100 percent, from low stroke, high cycle mode to high stroke, low cycle mode, which enables one shaker to handle a variety of products and processing conditions. Ideal for lines that require accurate metering or quick starts and stops, Impulse shakers have no sliding or rotating parts and no belts or bearings to wear.
At Paula, the vibratory shakers deliver a continuous flow of product to the weighing hoppers, which batch feed the microwaves every five minutes.
“The Key weighing hoppers provide a very precise dose and an even spread of product to the microwaves. This helps us maximize product quality,” commented Sosnicki. “Additionally, this technology has dramatically improved the capacity of our production and almost eliminated the human factor. These automated systems do not require operator input during production and they are much easier to clean than our previous systems.”
The Impulse shakers and Key weighing hoppers are integrated with the microwaves via a centralized controller. Each of Paula’s snack products are stored in the system’s memory, which automatically sets the shaker’s amplitude and the amount of product – from three to five kilograms – that the weighing hoppers accumulate and load into the microwaves during each cycle.
“We are always searching for ways to improve our product quality. Currently, we are in the process of going organic. The Kalisz plant is already organic certified and now we’re working with our suppliers to go organic. We hope to offer organic products by end of this year,” concluded Sosnicki. “We will continue to rely on Key Technology. Their dedication to providing quality products and quality services has impressed us.”
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
Al Foah, the largest producer of palm dates in the United Arab Emirates, is a shining example of Arabian innovation and the UAE’s leadership of the Arabian Renaissance. They are the first in the world to automate the sorting of dates. To develop a sorter for this new application, they turned to sorting expert, Key Technology. Two years ago, Al Foah installed their first Optyx® sorter to separate various grades according to size and color, and based on the success of that system, installed four more Optyx sorters since then.
“Before we automated sorting, we relied on mechanical grading and manual labor to do the job. Our primary goals in automating this operation were twofold. We wanted to improve the consistency of the output and we wanted to increase the volume of product being inspected,” said Swaminathan Sriraman, Manufacturing Director at Al Foah. “We considered several suppliers and decided to work with Key Technology because we were the most confident in their capabilities and commitment to support us in developing this new application.”
Sorters have been widely adopted around the world in facilities that process potatoes, fruits and vegetables where the technology is used to remove defects and foreign material (FM). As a result of the benefits achieved in these markets – improved food safety and product quality, increased yields and reduced labor – processors of other food products are increasingly looking to create competitive advantages in their respective markets by automating sorting. Al Foah is leading the way in the palm date industry.
“When we started our search, we knew that no supplier had a date sorting system that was ready to go,” explained Sriraman. “The fact that Key had systems installed in thousands of plants, inspecting hundreds of different kinds of products, gave us confidence in their ability to adapt a system to meet our exact needs. It was important to us that Key was able to show us systems that were successfully sorting products that are similar to ours, namely dried apricots and prunes. That, along with their cooperative nature, won our business.”
Today, Al Foah has three Optyx sorters at their Al Saad factory and two Optyx sorters at their Al Marfa factory. Three of these are Optyx 6000 series sorters, which feature a 1220- mm wide scan area and sort up to 6 metric tons of dates per hour. Two are Optyx 3000 series sorters, which feature a 610-mm wide scan area and sort up to 3 metric tons of dates per hour.
Key can configure Optyx with a combination of top- and/or bottom-mounted cameras and lasers to meet the exact needs of each application. Al Foah’s Optyx 6000 sorters feature cameras and their 3000 sorters feature both cameras and lasers. Using cameras, Optyx recognizes each object’s size and shape as well as millions of subtle color differences. Al Foah uses this capability to grade dates according to size and color. Lasers detect foreign material (FM) based on differences in the structural properties of the objects, a capability that Al Foah uses to remove dates with calyx when they are producing the highest product quality for the Abu Dhabi royal family.
As product passes through the sorter, it is inspected from the top while still on the conveyor belt. Product is then launched off the end of the Optyx belt for in-air viewing from the bottom. Using proprietary image processing technology designed specifically for dates, the sorter quickly analyses the images, comparing each object to previously defined accept/reject standards.
When the sorter identifies objects to separate from the primary product stream, it activates the ejector system, which is made up of a series of air jets that span the width of the system. While still air-borne, the air jets pinpoint each object to separate and remove it from the primary product stream.
At Al Foah, the sorter is programmed to grade product based on size and/or color, with specific characteristics that differ from one date varietal to another. One pass through the sorter typically separates the highest grade. If Al Foah wishes to separate a second grade, product is simply passed through the sorter a second time.
Unlike mechanical grading systems that separate sizes by length only, optical sorters can be programmed to make more sophisticated decisions. Al Foah’s Optyx sorters consider the length and width and the total surface area of each date and make decisions to separate by size based on both the absolute and relative dimensions of these parameters together. In addition to size sorting for the purpose of grading, Al Foah uses Optyx’s size sorting capability to remove dates that have been crushed.
When processing varietals that define grades by both size and color attributes, Optyx can be programmed to consider both simultaneously so only one pass is needed to separate premium product. The color sorting capability can also be harnessed to remove dates with color defects such as zebra stripes and dates with detached skins.
Changing the sort parameters takes only seconds because the settings are stored in Optyx’s memory and quickly retrieved on the color touchscreen control panel. Product characteristics are categorized on the user interface in terms common to the date industry, which reduces the skill level required to operate the sorter at peak performance. No change parts or mechanical adjustments are needed to change over the sorter to produce a different grade or handle a new varietal.
“The single biggest reason for us to automate sorting is to improve the uniformity of our output. This is especially important when we’re producing products for retail because consumers expect the product to always be the same. By comparison, mechanical grading is crude and manual sorting will never be consistent because humans are variable throughout the day and they make mistakes,” noted Sriraman. “Additionally, automating sorting allows us to achieve higher volumes of high quality product. Other processors may be interested in reducing labor but for us, it is simply not feasible to use manual labor to inspect volumes as high as ours.”
During the peak harvesting season from August to October, Al Foah operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to sort fresh dates coming from the field from more than 16,000 farmers. During the other months, dates are pulled from cold storage and sorted. After sorting, Al Foah washes and dries the product prior to packaging.
Dates can challenge automated technology because they are sticky and somewhat fragile. Rough handling can damage dates and damaged fruit is not only unacceptable in the final package, but can stick to automation technology and interrupt the process. With an expertise in product handling as well as sorting, Key designed Al Foah’s Optyx to gently handle dates to preserve the highest product quality and ease sanitation.
“Key trained our operators and the maintenance engineer who is responsible for the sorters when they were here during installation. We were trained in how to operate, maintain and clean the system so we could achieve the highest levels of performance,” said Sriraman. “It’s very easy to use.”
Optyx’s graphical user interface (GUI) can reside locally on the sorter and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet, enhancing the flexibility in the operating environment and easing access for remote factory troubleshooting and application assistance. Sophisticated realtime and on-demand diagnostics help minimize and avoid costly downtime and detect conditions that could compromise inspection.
“We had a test unit for three months before we decided to purchase the test unit and four additional sorters. Both the equipment and Key as a service provider have met our expectations,” concluded Sriraman. “These sorters allow us to go to market with retail packs that satisfy the most quality conscious customers around the world.”
“Prior to installing the sorters, 95 percent of our product was sold in bulk to distributors. Thanks to Optyx and the high volume of high quality product we’re now able to produce, 15 percent of our output is now sold in retail packs,” said Sriraman. “We’re also able to satisfy export markets that require the highest quality product.” In fact, 95 percent of Al Foah’s 85,000 metric tons of annual production is now exported, going to 30 different countries, primarily in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Date Crown is Al Foah’s first international brand, which was introduced to the market in 2009. The brand offers a wide range of premium Emirates date varietals including Lulu, Fard, Dabbas and Khenaizi in addition to the famous international varietal, Khalas.
The company’s Al Dhafra brand, which is produced in its Al Marfa factory, offers all types of dates and value-added products such as whole dates with chocolate, dates with nuts, pitted dates, date syrup, date paste and more. These products are all produced from 100 percent natural ingredients.
The quality produced at Al Foah is a source of national pride. This state-owned company goes to great lengths to bring this ancient and remarkable food to the world in a manner that is relevant to contemporary life. Its dates are grown according to the highest agricultural standards to provide sustainable work and income for tens of thousands of people in farming communities. Its manufacturing processes are leading-edge and its finished products are of the highest quality. Al Foah’s use of Optyx is just one of many examples that illustrates the company’s innovation in date production.
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers, LLC (SVWG), a grower-owned processor and marketer of shelled walnuts, is focused on providing superior quality product. Consistently hitting high product specifications is key to their success. They recently installed Optyx® with Raptor, a sorter from Key Technology that combines lasers and color cameras on one platform to achieve the most complete sort.
“Before we selected Key, we looked at sorters from three different suppliers. We knew we wanted a laser sorter because it had to be effective in removing foreign material and shell. Two of the laser sorters we looked at did one or two things well but the Key sorter did everything well,” noted Mike Procunier, Operations Manager at SVWG. “Because Optyx with Raptor uses cameras as well as lasers, it can sort for size and shape, including detecting a broken shoulder; the others can not. And Optyx is the only one that can do a reverse sort where good product is ejected instead of bad, which helps us recover good product during re-work. These were the deciding factors. It was an easy decision.”
SVWG selected Key’s Optyx 6795 with Raptor, which features top and bottom lasers and two top-mounted color cameras inspecting product within a 48-inch wide scan area. Using color cameras, Optyx analyzes each object’s size and shape as well millions of subtle color differences to detect and remove defects. The Raptor laser reliably detects foreign matter based on differences in the structural properties of the objects. The Optyx 6000 with Raptor can sort up to 20,000 lb of walnuts per hour.
“Shelled walnuts are graded by size, color, and shell count,” explained Procunier. “With our old sorter, we incurred greater hand sorting costs to achieve our desired specs, with the Key we have been able to set higher specifications for customers that require them. At the same time the lasers are looking for shells, fibers, membranes, and other foreign material, the cameras inspect color, size, and shape. In addition to detecting defects, the cameras allow us to identify broken shoulders so our halves are both cleaned and sized in one pass through the sorter.
“Breakage was a serious problem with our old sorter. To make grade, we had to send the product through four times, then follow that up with hand sorting. The problem with that approach, in addition to it hurting productivity, is that every time we turned a bin through the old sorter, walnuts would slam against metal and break,” noted Procunier. “With Optyx, we’re producing product that is five times cleaner in one pass. One person can sort three to four times more product in the same amount of time and we’re not destroying our walnuts in the process. Not only are we turning the bins less, but product slides through the new sorter without breaking.
“We try to pack to one specification as long as we can, but changing is easy enough to do on Optyx. It only takes one minute. It’s so user friendly, my four year old could do it,” said Procunier. “Overall, in terms of operation, maintenance, and sanitation, this is the easiest piece of equipment. The only thing we have to do is clean the lenses.”
“With Optyx, we’re more efficient with fewer people and we’re getting better product. Our growers are happy because the quality we’re producing is opening doors to new business opportunities,” concluded Procunier. “Having the right people, good growers and good nuts allows us to preach about quality.”
**This white paper was originally published on Key.net
Mariani Packing Company, the largest independent processor of dried fruit in the U.S., relies on innovative technology to improve operations. To help assure that customers always receive the highest quality product, Mariani installed Key Technology’s Optyx® 6000 Series Sorters with Raptor Laser Technology to identify and remove defects and foreign material from the product stream at full production speeds.
“We get the most consistent product quality because Optyx with Raptor marries two superior processes – color cameras and laser technology – in one sorter,” explained Mark Krause, Plant Operations Manager at Mariani’s Marysville, California facility. “The laser is ideal for removing foreign material like sticks, rocks, and leaves. The cameras are ideal for removing defects like growth cracks, skin blemishes, and mold based on the object’s size, shape, and color.”
Featuring a 48-inch wide scan area, one Optyx 6000 with Raptor inspects up to 20,000 pounds (nine metric tons) of Mariani’s dried plums per hour. State-of-the-art electronics deliver the same ultra-high resolution as Key’s 24-inch wide Optyx 3000 with Raptor to detect the smallest defects and foreign material.
“We measure the success of Raptor on the foreign material removed. With our old sorter, we removed 60 to 70 percent of the foreign material before hand sorters removed the rest. With Raptor, we’re achieving 90 percent foreign material removal and that’s enabled us to reduce the number of people hand sorting. Raptor’s performance on the dried plum line has been so good, we decided to install another Raptor sorter on our raisin line.”
Optyx with Raptor is a versatile platform that can be configured for either single-side or top-andbottom scanning by multiple sensors including color, Vis/IR (visible infrared), and monochromatic cameras as well as Raptor Laser Technology and Key’s newest FluoRaptor™ fluorescence-sensing laser technology. To effectively sort Mariani’s product, their sorter features a top-mounted color camera, a bottom-mounted color camera, and a top-mounted Raptor laser.
“Before we selected Raptor, we looked at other technology. We choose Raptor because the marriage of the laser with the cameras was superior to anything else we saw. Key’s customer service was also a main selling point. We’ve worked with the same person at Key for 12 years. They understand the issues we face. There was a faster learning curve for Key than other suppliers. Also, Raptor was much easier to use than other sorters we considered.”
For four generations, the Mariani family has grown, dried, processed, and packaged the finest and freshest dried fruit from prime growing regions around the world. Today, with operations in California and Thailand, Mariani processes over 125 million pounds (5670 metric tons) of dried fruit each year.
“Quality is the number one reason we selected Raptor. Foreign material removal is extremely important to food safety. The Mariani family name is on the product so we want the customer to open the package and be delighted. When you’re focused on producing the highest quality product, you need to have the highest quality technology,” Krause concluded.
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
Pure Pacific Organics, a leading processor of organic fresh-cut products such as baby spinach and spring mix, was the first in the world to install Optyx® with FluoRaptor™, the new fluorescence-sensing laser sorter from Key Technology. Using a combination of color cameras and laser technology, Optyx with FluoRaptor detects and removes defects, extraneous vegetable matter (EVM), and foreign material (FM) based on differing levels of chlorophyll as well as color, size, and shape.
“At Pure Pacific, we do everything we can to be sure our product is safe,” said Tom Russell, President and CEO of Pure Pacific Organics. “When we went looking for an automated inspection system, removing foreign material was our number one goal. Removing defects was also important. When we saw what FluoRaptor could do – it found things we couldn’t even see – we were so impressed. Then Key’s service and support sealed the deal.”
Optyx with FluoRaptor identifies differences in the fluorescent properties of objects to remove insects, animal parts, rocks, sticks, cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal, even if the objects are the same color as the product. The sorter can also detect and remove leaves from trees, even when the color, texture, and shape are similar to the good product.
“We considered sorters from a number of different manufacturers,” noted David Black, Chief Operations Officer at Pure Pacific Organics. “FluoRaptor goes after foreign material better than anything else we found. We also liked its on-belt inspection more than the free-fall systems because gentle handling reduces mechanical damage to the tender leaf, which is critical to our final product quality.”
Pure Pacific selected Key’s Optyx 6786 with FluoRaptor, which features a 48-inch (1220- mm) wide scan area that enables it to sort up to 6500 pounds (3 metric tons) of product per hour. One top-mounted laser, two top-mounted Vis/IR cameras and two bottom mounted Vis/IR cameras view the product both top and bottom.
“Removing foreign material is our primary objective but FluoRaptor finds a lot of defects too, like decayed leaves that a tractor ran over or product with windburn, dead spots, or holes from a bug bite,” said Russell. “This sorter finds things that people miss. Removing these defects improves the shelf life and the quality of our finished product.”
Key can configure Optyx with FluoRaptor to sort fresh-cut products as well as a variety of fresh and frozen vegetables and potato products. The system at Pure Pacific Organics is designed specifically for tender leaf products with unique product handling and sanitation features that keep the system free of product build-up during operation to maximize defect and foreign material removal while minimizing yield loss and easing sanitation.
“It’s up to every processor to determine their ideal balance between product quality and yield because in general, the more foreign material and defects you remove, the more good product you lose with it,” explained Black. “With FluoRaptor, our yield loss has been minimal because the sorter accurately fires its ejectors at foreign material without removing much good product. Our goal is to remove 100 percent of the foreign material and FluoRaptor helps us achieve that without much product loss. We are very happy with the results we’re achieving.”
Pure Pacific sorts 24 different blends and component products, each with its own preprogrammed setting, which can be recalled in seconds via the touchscreen control panel. The icon-based user interface is available in multiple languages so it’s easy to learn and use, reducing operator training and simplifying optimum operation. The user interface can reside locally on the sorter and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet, enhancing the flexibility in the operating environment and easing access for remote factory troubleshooting and application assistance.
“Our cold, wet environment can be challenging but FluoRaptor handles it well,” concluded Black. “We’re experiencing virtually 100 percent product efficiency with the sorter. We’ve reduced our labor costs and maintained our throughput. But most importantly, we’ve improved our product quality and food safety.”
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
L&S Cranberry farms and packs an average of 8 million pounds of fresh cranberries every year, primarily for Ocean Spray Cranberries. With such a large marquee customer, L&S Cranberry takes great care to provide the highest quality product that is safe and free of foreign material to protect consumers as well as Ocean Spray’s brand. In 2008, L&S Cranberry installed Key Technology’s Optyx® 6000 series sorter to inspect the fruit and automatically remove foreign material and defects.
In 2011, they added RemoteMD™, a real-time condition analysis tool for the sorter that helps maximize product quality and productivity.
“Before 2008, we shipped fresh cranberries in bulk from our farm in Quebec to an Ocean Spray packing plant in Massachusetts, which had Optyx sorters on the line. When we grew big enough to justify having our own packing facility, the success of Optyx at Ocean Spray influenced our decision to install the same sorter here,” said Kevin Connolly, Product and Development Manager. “As we grew, we went from packing one shift per day to two shifts per day, six days per week during the season. We added RemoteMD to allow the sorter to be monitored and accessed from anywhere. It’s absolutely awesome.”
RemoteMD takes the concept of remote monitoring and diagnostics, which has historically been reactive in nature, and made it proactive. With this capability enabled, Key Technology’s RemoteMD technology continuously monitors L&S Cranberry’s Optyx Sorter through a secure portal, looking for conditions that may require corrective action. The system automatically alerts the customer and Key technicians of a condition change and, if circumstances warrant, Key can remotely log in and fix it.
“It gives us peace of mind, knowing that Key is monitoring our sorter and can see problems and provide support. It also gives me freedom because it allows me to connect and see what’s going on from my office and from home, which is especially valuable during the night shift,” noted Connolly. “We’ve used RemoteMD every day since it was installed and every day, it’s worked perfectly. It helps us maximize our product quality and our productivity.”
L&S Cranberry packs 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of fresh cranberries per hour during their season from September to December. Every cranberry is sorted by Optyx using a combination of color cameras and laser technology. The color cameras inspect each object’s size, shape and color, and the lasers detect differences in the objects’ structural properties, enabling Optyx to identify foreign material, defects and soft berries called “poppers.”
“Since cranberries are harvested in water, much like wet lands, we find all kinds of water creatures. Optyx removes frogs and lizards as well as branches and rocks. Obviously, it’s important to remove all of this foreign material,” explained Connolly. “It’s also important to remove ‘poppers’ because they spoil rapidly and affect other berries in the bag.”
“It’s hard to find people to work only a portion of the year. We usually have to start every year with new people. Optyx reduces our reliance on labor and RemoteMD gives us the flexibility to not have to have the most fully trained person there at all times,” said Connolly.
Through Key’s PROliance™ protection plan that covers Optyx, L&S Cranberry has access to Key’s online training program in addition to RemoteMD. “Last year, we took on the responsibility to train more people, including our maintenance staff,” noted Connolly.This online training program offers an interactive, self-paced multimedia curriculum designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of training. With modules that cover hardware, software and user interface topics, it helps L&S Cranberry operate their sorter at peak performance, which optimizes product quality and maximizes equipment uptime while reducing training costs.
“Key’s online training program frees me up from having to train everybody myself. When employees are better trained, they lean on me less to step in and get involved in the operation,” explained Connolly. “Having more people that know the sorter is a good thing. And we don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to bring in technicians to do the training. This is especially valuable given our high turnover.”
“We work hard to produce and pack the highest quality fresh cranberries. Given our short season, it’s very important that we hit 100 percent accuracy from the moment we start up in September. Online training helps us to be prepared and RemoteMD is like having an insurance policy,” concluded Connolly. “Optyx helps us achieve our high quality standards.”
This online training program offers an interactive, self-paced multimedia curriculum designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of training. With modules that cover hardware, software and user interface topics, it helps L&S Cranberry operate their sorter at peak performance, which optimizes product quality and maximizes equipment uptime while reducing training costs.
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
At Pasta Montana, the focus on quality permeates every activity at every step of the process. One shining example of this dedication is their recent decision to be the first pasta manufacturer in the U.S. to install a digital sorter that ejects foreign material (FM) and defects from the product stream. After thoroughly analyzing their options, they chose to work with Key Technology and selected Optyx®, which was installed in July 2013 on the line that produces short pastas like penne, shells, and elbows.
“As a pasta manufacturer for Japanese customers that accept zero defects, we need to ensure the quality of our product. Of course, our domestic customers appreciate this too,” said Claude Smith, Plant Manager at Pasta Montana. “We wanted to add a quality control step that was as close to certain as we could get. We were looking for a way to guarantee perfect pasta. That’s what drove this project.”
“We looked at multiple suppliers and compared their after sales service and spare parts availability as well as their willingness to customize the technology for our application,” said Smith. “Key was head-and-shoulders above when it came to service. They also had better technology. As we got deeper into it and Key continued to modify things for us, we ended up with an integrated system that is steps ahead of what the others offered.”
Digital sorters are most often used to process harvested foods like fruits, vegetables, potato products, nuts, and more. To adapt this technology for pasta, Key customized the sorter and developed the intelligent software and algorithms for this new application.
“Prior to Optyx, we relied on mechanical screening and metal detection as well as QC checks. When we ran products for some of our Japanese customers, we’d slow the line down to half-speed and add four people assigned to watch the product and achieve 100 percent inspection,” said Adam Hatch, Maintenance Tech Class A at Pasta Montana. “Now, with Optyx, we can run at full-speed and we’ve eliminated the human error that comes with manual inspection. We’ve increased productivity by 20 percent on that line and we’re better able to ensure the quality of our product.”
The Optyx 3785 at Pasta Montana features color cameras and a laser, sorting on a 24-inch (610-mm) wide belt to inspect as much as 4.5 tons (4 metric tons) of pasta per hour. With Key’s intelligent algorithms, the cameras recognize color, size, and shape to detect product defects and co-mingled product. The laser recognizes differences in structural properties to detect foreign material (FM), even when it is the same color as good product, which is especially important when Pasta Montana is running tri-colored pasta. When FM, defects, and co-mingled product are identified, Optyx activates its ejection system to remove these objects from the product stream.
In addition to the Optyx sorter, Key supplied Pasta Montana with an Iso-Flo® scalping shaker that removes fines as well as under- and over-size objects and an Iso-Flo shaker with a unique air flow system that removes lightweight material. A third Iso-Flo conveyor, configured as a scale feed shaker, was installed above the combination weigher to maximize the efficiency of the bagger. This integrated system is found on Line Two at Pasta Montana, which produces a wide variety of small pastas.
“We want to identify and remove everything that doesn’t belong, including co-mingled product from another run, off-color product, misshapen product and of course, any foreign material,” said Amanda Carpenter, Floating Operator at Pasta Montana. “We use shape sorting for every product we run so we can catch an elbow pasta if we’re running penne, and double our protection. The scalper upstream of the sorter does a great job giving the sorter clean product. Compared to our old scalper, this is so much better. For one thing, it’s easier to change screens, which we typically do for each product run. It used to take four people 15 to 20 minutes to change the screens. Now, it takes two people 5 to 7 minutes.”
Gentle handling is an important consideration at Pasta Montana where some short pasta shapes are more fragile than others. “This entire project was geared to producing perfect pasta, and gentle handling was an important part of that. We eliminated breakage points and lowered elevation drops. The discharge of the sorter was a concern, so Key worked to decelerate the product there,” said Smith. Carpenter added, “Now, we have much less breakage than before and less waste. Further down the line, with the less breakage, the bagging operation becomes much more efficient.”
“Since we installed Optyx, we’ve not had a single customer complaint,” concluded Smith. “And we’ve made it easier for our people to package the best pasta.”
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
For more information on Optyx, visit www.key.net/products/optyx.
Tayto is the largest British-owned manufacturer of potato chips/crisps and the top selling brand of chips in Northern Ireland Their mission is to make superior products by using superior technology. In 2014, they turned to Key Technology and installed four new Optyx® digital sorters to better control the removal of defects and foreign material (FM) and produce the highest quality batch-fried and continuous-fried potato chips.
“We considered sorters from two suppliers. We compared the technologies’ ability to sort at our speeds and find clumps and discoloration. The suppliers’ reputations for sorting handfried crisps as well as continuous-fried crisps played into our decision too. Key was far more field-proven with these applications,” said Philip Hoden, Group Head of Engineers at Tayto. “We use the highest performing technology so only the best products reach our customers. Key’s Optyx is the superior solution.”
While most potato chip manufacturers use camera-only sorters, Tayto rose above the industry standard and selected combination camera/laser sorters to better identify and remove the widest variety of defects and FM. The cameras recognize color, size, and shape to find defects such as green spots, bruises, and overcooked black spots. With the help of intelligent software and algorithms that Key developed specifically for this application, the sorters’ lasers detect common batch-fried defects such as doubles and clumps of chips stuck together and oilsoaked and blistered chips in addition to FM.
Another unusual aspect of sorting on the batch-fry lines at Tayto is their use of Key’s split-sorter configuration, which takes the 48-inch (1200-mm) wide scan area of the Optyx 6000 series sorter and splits it into two 24-inch (600-mm) wide lanes. This enables Tayto to sort two different products simultaneously on each sorter, with software that allows them to define different defects and different reject thresholds on each sort lane.
“The split sorters give us a lot of production flexibility. We can run crinkle crisps on one side and flat crisps or lowfat crisps on the other side at the same time,” said Paul McDonald, Project Engineer at Tayto. “This versatility allows us to allocate the eight batch-fryers that feed each sorter to two different products to satisfy production demands.”
In addition to maximizing product quality, the consistent reliability of Optyx enabled Tayto to reduce labor. This savings is greatest on their continuous-fry lines where up to 5000 lbs. (2.2 metric tons) of potato chips are sorted per hour. “Prior to installing Optyx on our high speed lines, we had three or four people manually inspecting product after the sorter. Now, thanks to Optyx, we only need one operator on the line to provide extra security,” said Hoden. “We’ve been able to redirect two or three people from each line to work elsewhere in the plant.”
Tayto operates most of their production lines 24 hours a day, six days a week, with the seventh day spent cleaning. “Optyx is well designed for sanitation,” said Hoden. “It takes one person a couple of minutes to remove the belt, which is then washed. The rest of the machine is wiped down. It’s all very easy.”
“We had Key come in during installation to train our Super Users, who can then train others. We’ve also used Key’s online training program, which is very, very good,” noted Hoden. With modules designed for operators, maintenance personnel, sanitation crews, supervisors, and others, Key’s self-paced, interactive multimedia curriculum helps Tayto’s employees operate Optyx at peak performance while minimizing training costs. It’s part of Key’s standard PROliance™ service package that also includes RemoteMD™, a real-time analysis tool that also helps maximize the sorter’s performance. “Optyx is very reliable, so it requires minimal attention, but it gives us added confidence knowing that Key can log on with RemoteMD and provide support remotely, including making adjustments to the sorters,” noted McDonald. “Key understands that our product is quality. They supplied us with sorters that are doing a great job, and whenever we need anything, they react very quickly and give us great support.”
“We have several measures of success with respect to our product quality and sorting in particular. As part of our in-house inspection, our technical team randomly pulls out product at the end of the line and analyzes color and clumping and other criteria,” said McDonald. “Based on those technical inspections, our in-house team says they’ve seen a marked improvement in the quality of our product since we installed these new sorters from Key.”
“The ultimate measure of success is customer feedback,” concluded Hoden. “Our customers tell us that we make the best potato crisps in the U.K. This doesn’t surprise us – we know that we are using the most advanced technology and we’ve optimized the layout to maximize efficiencies. We’re at the top end of our market in terms of quality. Optyx helps in that effort. With Optyx, we can easily control our quality and keep it at that high level.”
**This case study was originally published on Key.net
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