Image analysis and product quality

Better insight into product quality can help drive quality improvements. Sophisticated imaging technology can provide this insight into product composition, colour and physical structure. This clip illustrates some of the tools we can use to help you assess and optimise the quality of your products.

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Food appearance and composition are fundamental to its acceptability. Imaging is an obvious route to assess appearance, but by using sophisticated image analysis techniques the composition, colour and physical structure of food can be determined in detail.

The new technique of near infrared imaging has been used to rapidly assess food composition. This has direct application to multi-component foods such as cream filled biscuits. Images are taken for which the chemical composition of each pixel in the image can be determined, this detailed information is then used to generate component maps to allow areas differing in composition to be easily visualised.

This technique is particularly powerful for assessing changes in foods during processing or storage. The uptake of fat during frying is one such example, the regions of donuts and fries containing fat can be assessed in a quantitative way and thus used in product and process development. By using the same approach the migration of moisture during storage for baked goods can also be determined. to help understand one aspect of how they become stale over storage life. As with composition the colour of foods can also be assessed in a quantitative way. Calibration is fundamental to this and is achieved by using defined coloured standards. The imaging system is based around an imaging cabinet to a large standardised illumination of samples. Images, thus captured, may be viewed on a calibrated monitor printed using a calibrated printer and compared using a calibrated viewing cabinet. It is this suite of imaging tools which ensures consistency of measurement and objective analysis. This approach has been applied across a range of food types and sectors including raw materials, baked goods, confectionery, poultry, meat and fresh produce.

In addition to food composition and colour, image analysis is also used to determine food structure. The C-Cell imaging system was developed to assess the structure of baked products and has been applied to a range of foods with cellular structures. Samples are prepared by slicing in a consistent manner before images are taken using a specially designed illumination and viewing cabinet. Unique software is used to derive key measures of the product size, shape and structure. These give an objective means of assessing product quality to facilitate product and process development as well as quality control.

Food composition, colour and structure all play fundamental roles and food quality, the use of new imaging technology shows high technical excellence can be practically applied by Campden BRI to support the food industry.

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