Understanding Foreign Materials in Foods – Part 1

What are they and should we be concerned?

10 March 2020

If you have ever eaten a sandwich and crunched down on something you weren't expecting, and found yourself asking the question, "Do I swallow it and hope for the best, or do I spit it out with my eyes closed?"- you've experienced a foreign material in food.

Broadly, the presence of a foreign material in food means that something has entered a food product that a consumer isn't expecting. It could be anything from bits of metal from a manufacturing process to an unwanted animal by-product that was not properly filtered out when processing (i.e., bone fragment).

Experiencing an unexpected inclusion can, at minimum, cause a negative experience for consumers and potentially discourage them from coming back to a brand and their products in the future. In certain cases, foreign materials in food have even led to injuries and hospitalizations, as well as recalls and significant brand impacts for companies.

As processed foods have become more and more commonplace around the globe, regulatory scrutiny has increased accordingly. In 2012, the European Union's Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX) agency issued 5 product recalls for inclusion of foreign materials. By 2018, that number had ballooned by fifty times to over 245 foreign material recalls!

In an innovative industry challenged to stay on-top of evolving regulations, companies are required to better manage their products.  Designing food products in ways that minimize the likelihood of foreign materials may not be as simple as it seems. And, if a manufacturer happens to catch foreign material inclusions in their manufacturing process, it can be even harder to make an analytical, risk-based decision about what, if any, action should be taken. Intertek experts are knowledgeable in the consumers' perceptions of foreign materials, the varying hazards posed by different types of foreign materials, and the considerations for identifying and evaluating the potential risk level of an incident.

If you are a manufacturer interested in learning more about how to keep foreign materials out of your processes, our colleagues at Intertek Quality Assurance can help you design your manufacturing systems and processes to control for those events.

Don't miss the opportunity to learn from the experts...
Intertek will be offering a complimentary Webinar, "Not All Foreign Materials are Created Equal" on April 9, 2020 at 11am EDT, 10am CDT, 8am PDT. Register here

 

Solomon David,
Project Manager, Safety Consulting, Product Assurance
Health, Environmental & Regulatory Services (HERS)

 

Today's expert blogger is Solomon David. Solomon, Project Manager, Safety Consulting, has been at Intertek for 4 years advising clients on the safety of consumer products by evaluating and identifying safety and regulatory requirements. He works closely with companies on continuously improving their safety processes. Solomon attended Purdue University where he received a B.S. in Engineering Management.