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Foreign Bodies From May 2009 newsletter

Foreign Bodies

Solving foreign body problems, improving product quality and packaging defect assessment provide just three examples of how members benefit from our state-of-the-art microscopy facilities.

Foreign bodies

Rapid identification of foreign bodies found in foods is often essential for quick resolution of the problem and preventing recurrences.The scanning electron microscope (SEM) enables detailed visual examination of samples and, linked to the X-ray analyser, definitive identification of materials such as glass, metal and stone. Mike Edwards, Microscopy Section Manager adds:

"To the naked eye, glass fragments from potentially different sources may look exactly the same. X-ray microanalysis allows us to identify the elemental composition of glass, and therefore distinguish between different types of glass, for example heat resistant, lead crystal or soda-lime. This can help identify potential sources and prevent further problems."

Food structure and function

The structure of foods and ingredients plays a major role in determining their functional and sensory properties. Texture is markedly affected by the raw materials used and their processing and storage. Understanding the structure, and what factors influence it, enables better management of quality and can stimulate product innovation.

Dynamic experiments to study the effect of moisture on food samples help improve product quality. For example, we can look at the dispersion of materials such as gums, milk powders and polyphosphates in products such as soups, ready meals, condiments, sauces and desserts, and at rehydration of dehydrated fruit and vegetable powders. This enables us to tackle questions like "why is this batch of product unsatisfactory when the last batch was fine?"

Packaging and contact surfaces

Packaging failures - whether structural or chemical - can seriously compromise product safety.We can investigate internal or external corrosion of metal cans, delamination in plastic packaging, and failure of heat seals in plastic packaging. We can also assess the micro-topography of packaging and other food contact surfaces. This can help determine, for example, whether a particular finish is good enough for incorporation into a cleaning-in-place (CIP) system or is too uneven for effective removal of surface deposits or biofilms.

Contact: Mike Edwards
+44(0)1386 842017