Should magnets be considered as critical control points?

We often get asked the question - should magnetic separators be considered as critical control points?  In essence, magnetic separators could be considered as a CCP if the hazard was ferrous metals only. However, in a food product stream, it is essential for both ferrous and non-ferrous contaminants to be detected. This is something that is beyond the capabilities of a magnetic separator, but not beyond the capabilities of a metal detector or x-ray machine! As metal detectors can pick up non-ferrous materials as well, they are considered to be a CCP.

Based on this, one may think - so why do we need magnetic separators if a metal detector or an x-ray machine can do the job? 

Because what one can do, the other cannot. Although technology has advanced, most metal detectors used today still cannot detect pieces smaller than 2-3mm in width, especially if they travel in a transverse orientation through the product - and that's where magnetic separators are essential. Magnets are capable of separating magnetic slithers that are below the tolerance of metal detectors, such as fragments smaller than 1mm! Magnetic separators should be installed prior to metal detectors to collect the tiny ferrous contaminants that a metal detector or x-ray machine cannot detect. [caption id="attachment_1435" align="aligncenter" width="737"]A comparison between contaminants picked up by magnetic separators and metal detectors A comparison between contaminants picked up by magnetic separators and metal detectors[/caption] A large majority of metal contamination in today's product streams are tiny work-hardened fragments originating from up-stream equipment wear. These pieces are so tiny in size, almost dust-like, that they can easily escape the notice of a metal detector or x-ray machine.

That being said, no food processing lines are the same, so it is difficult to provide a straight yes or no answer to the question. In some applications, it may be appropriate and acceptable for the magnet to be a CCP. It all depends on your plant, process, and product.

The table below will provide more insight into the differences between metal detectors and magnetic separators, and the types of contamination each metal fragment control targets. A comparison between magnets and metal detectors For an informed and accurate assessment of your product lines and help to determine where magnetic separators and/or metal detectors should be installed in your plant, contact us today to speak to one of our technicians. Our #1 priority is to help you reduce the risk of metal contamination, food recall, and brand name damage. With 50 years hands-on experience in the field and high-quality HACCP certified solutions, we are qualified to be your trusted partners in foreign metal contamination control. Protect your product stream today!

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