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Metal Contamination: A Food Safety Nightmare

To mark the start of the summer grilling season, we are taking a look at recent cases where there has been an issue with food safety with specific reference to metal contamination.





Metal contamination is commonly found in foods as they are being processed. Metal can be introduced at a number of stages including:


•     Originating in the raw food product prior to arrival at the processing plant;
•     During transportation of the foodstuffs to the processing plant;
•     In the process from process machinery wear or failure;
•     Accidentally by workers or during maintenance;

In the vast majority of food processing plants, there will be a series of Magnetic Separators and Metal Detector to remove and identify any metal contamination prior to the finished food product leaving the factory.

However, if the Magnetic Separator or Metal Detector is not operating to the optimum efficiency, or if there are no systems to remove metal installed, then metal end up in the food product being purchased by the consumer.

Recent Metal Found In Food Cases

These are some recent cases where metal has been found in food.

•     In May 2017, William Santus & Co announced that Uncle Joe’s Liquorice & Aniseed Extra Strong Mints (35g tins) were recalled because there were fears that the sweets may contain small pieces of metal;
•     UK supermarket Tesco faced a ‘metal-in-food’ safety warning in March 2017 when there were fears that the vegetarian product, Quorn Meat Free Mince (300g pack), was contaminated with small bits of metal;
•     Lotus Bakeries UK Ltd recalled Lotus Biscoff Crunchy Biscuit Spread because the product may contain small pieces of metal.  This affected most of the supermarkets in the UK in March 2017;
•     The food company OK Food Inc (Oklahoma, USA) recalled more than 466 tons of breaded chicken because of possible metal in the food in March 2017;
•     In the USA, Blue Buffalo dog food had to be recalled in March 2017 after a Lakeland woman reported that she had found metal.
•     UK supermarket Morrisons was hit by a food safety scare in April 2017, when metal wire was found in green beans;

Metal Found In Morrisons Green Beans

In all cases, the cost of recalling the product was significant, but for many it was not as high as the damage to the company’s reputation.

Other Food Safety reports relating to Metal-in-Food include:

•     Metal contaminated metal scare;
•     Metal found in chocolate eclairs;
•     Sainsbury warns of metal in bread;
•     Metal shards contaminate meat;

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