Home>Plant, Process & Control>Seals and sealants>Metal detectable seal solutions

Metal detectable seal solutions

25 January 2013

Metal detectable seals have an important role to play in hygiene sensitive industries, as Jon Joynes of ERIKS Sealing Technology explains Stringent legislation covering hygiene sensitive industries has seen a number

Metal detectable seals have an important role to play in hygiene sensitive industries, as Jon Joynes of ERIKS Sealing Technology explains

Stringent legislation covering hygiene sensitive industries has seen a number of high profile product recalls and subsequent litigation over the years, demonstrating the importance of effective risk management in production processes.

As supply chains in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and dairy industries grow longer, so the potential for contaminants getting into products increases. Stringent legislation now impacts on all areas of these industries, and manufacturers are under pressure to take all practicable measures to eliminate the potential for contamination.

Product recalls and subsequent litigation are time consuming and costly - both financially as well as in terms of the potential long-lasting damage to a brand and a company's reputation.We live in an increasingly litigious society where the finger of blame must always come to rest somewhere, so it is in manufacturers' interests to protect consumers and themselves.

The law Food and drink manufacture across Europe is governed by the General Food Law Regulation, the General Food Regulations 2004, and in the UK by the Food Standards Act 1999. There are also EU-wide food hygiene regulations.

The General Food Law Regulation is legislation relating to the safety of food, traceability, notification of food safety incidents, and withdrawal and recall of unsafe food. It establishes the European Food Safety Authority and lays down procedures in matters of food safety.

Building on this, the General Food Regulations 2004 creates an offence of contravening or failing to comply with these food safety requirements.

EU-wide food hygiene regulations have applied since January 2006, defined under Food Hygiene Regulations 852/2004, 853/2004 and 854/2004. These three regulations modernised, consolidated and simplified previous EU hygiene legislation, and applied effective and proportionate controls throughout the food chain. Food business operators are required to implement procedures based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) principles.

These procedures identify potential hazards so that key actions - Critical Control Points - can be taken to reduce or eliminate the risk of hazards being realised.

One potential area for contamination within product manufacture comes from the possible breakdown of rubber sealing products. Elastomers specified for use in the likes of the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and dairy industries are, of course, of the very highest quality, but there is always the smallest risk that a seal might begin to disintegrate and particles find their way into the product.

Locating such particles in the product can be costly and time consuming. But if these pieces are not detected, the consequences in terms of product recalls and law suits could prove disastrous.

Metal detectable elastomers Far better, then, to be able to detect these products at the earliest stage of production - minimising product waste and eliminating the risk of product recall. If seals are available with improved performance characteristics that reduce the risk of polymers finding their way into a finished product in the first place, so much the better.

This will help to dramatically reduce costly production downtime and, in addition, reduce equipment maintenance requirements.

To address the requirement to be able to detect seal particles that might find their way into the product, sealing manufacturers have developed compounds that are detectable by the metal detection equipment that already exists on production lines. Should a piece of elastomer be detected, the production line can be stopped immediately, allowing contaminated products to be easily removed long before they ever reach the supply chain, and the problem on the production line to be quickly remedied.

Although metal detectable seals are available from a number of manufacturers, their performance characteristics and important criteria such as the smallest particle size that can be detected all vary.

This led sealing technology specialists at ERIKS to develop a new breed of elastomer setting a new benchmark standard for metal detectable seals.

At its Sealing Technology Centre in Warrington, the company regularly develops its own new compounds. The new metal detectable seals are manufactured from NBR, EPDM, FKM and Silicone compounds to form metal detectable O-rings. Particle sizes as small as 2mm can be readily detected. As well as offering FDA compliance for the food and pharmaceutical industries, and 3A Class 1 (sanitary standard 18-03) compliance for the dairy, food and other hygiene sensitive industries, the Orings, sanitary gaskets / seals can also be used as part of a HACCP programme.