Food Engineering

Field Reports: Metal detector provides ‘Fortress’ against contaminants

August 12, 2003
System links data from multiple lines to provide real-time quality and safety records.

The Fortress Phantom metal detector/conveyor system adapted easily to the products and standards of Continental Custom Ingredients’ customers.



Nothing is more critical than quality to a dry powder manufacturer, and no contaminant poses a more formidable challenge to quality than metal.

Metal in the form of staples, flakes, and machine shavings can indeed be the bane of the dry powder game where detection of 2-mm particles of 300 series stainless steel and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals has become standard expectation.

“Customer requirements are getting more stringent,” notes Jim Child, project manager at Continental Custom Ingredients, Inc.’s dry powder plant in Dixon, Ill. “The standards of quality and safety are getting stricter all the time.”

The current generation Fortress Phantom metal detector/conveyor system adapted easily to the products and standards of CCI’s customers. A co-packer of custom ingredients, CCI supplies over 800 individual SKUs to a growing base of customers, comprised principally of grocery chains, fast-food restaurants and dairy processors. Applying and adapting those standards to the 50-plus dry stabilizers, emulsifiers, chocolate powders and blends processed at the facility requires reliable technology with quick-changeover capability.

More than 40 percent of the 80,000-square-foot Dixon facility is dedicated to production of powders and blends, including some high moisture products. “The densities of the products vary greatly,” says Travis McMahan, CCI director of marketing. “Being able to adjust to these densities is a valuable feature.”

The phase adjustment allows the system to learn and store the phases of each material. Operators follow simple calibration steps to adjust settings for individual products.

“The memory system in the (Fortress) computer control is a big plus,” adds Gary Smith, director of custom products. “With multiple memories, the system is easy to set for a particular product. Some (dry) products have conductive characteristics that may deliver false readings. The Fortress system screens these readings out so you can still get accurate metal detection.”

Product, packaged in 25-, 50-, and 55-pound bags, passes through a generous 26” by 11” aperture with a flawless record of detection. “To get 2-mm sensitivity on 316 stainless steel with such a large opening is very, very good,” assesses Child.

The Fortress system is also capable of linking data from multiple lines to provide lab personnel with accurate, real-time quality and safety records.

“The vast majority of our customers inquire about HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) systems these days,” observes Dan Brown, CCI compliance manager. “The Fortress units make our HACCP plan more manageable. A larger size particulate produces a higher signal strength, so we can tell from a reading the size of a contaminant and even the likelihood of a false positive reading.”

For more information:

Fortress Technology, 888/220-8737, fortress@fortresstechnology.com.