Food Engineering

Pass the herbs, hold the metal flakes

September 1, 2011
Growing herb and spice processor increases quality with automated metal detection system that doesn’t eat up space.

The ECOLINE-D metal detection system from S+S Inspection Inc. provides Laux with the assurance its products not only live up to their high quality, but also are free of metal contaminants. Source: S+S Inspection Inc.


Cooks and chefs all over the world use dried herbs and spices without giving a thought to the possibility small pieces of metal might be hiding in the packaging. This confidence comes about because the producers take great care to protect their brands by ensuring the products are not contaminated. A typical example is the German company, Laux GmbH, where product quality is paramount. Laux specializes in producing herbs, spices, teas, oils, vinegars and salad dressings for retailers.

Before Laux grew to its current size, it painstakingly produced all its products by hand. With this kind of control, it was easy to produce superior products free of any contamination. “Because we had always processed our products manually, we had no need for metal detection,” says Technical Operations Manager Christoph Mertes. “When we expanded our spice mixture product range, the rapid increase in sales made it necessary to automate the filling process, which made the use of metal detection equipment essential to maintain our reputation for pure products.”

Because metal fragments may be present in the incoming raw materials or enter the product during the manufacturing process, Laux inspects every jar of herbs and spices at the end-of-line, immediately before shipping. Like many companies, Laux must make the best use of the available production space, while not compromising the reliability of the inspection process.

Mertes began his search for an inspection system that could perform without error in a tight space. “I used an Internet search engine and was impressed by S+S Inspection,” says Mertes. “It was important that the metal detection equipment be compact to fit easily into our production space, easy to set up for our different product groups and simple to maintain and clean. Equally important was the ability to detect both magnetic and non-magnetic metal contaminants.”

To satisfy both space and detection requirements, Laux installed the ECOLINE-D metal detection system from S+S Inspection to check all of its glass jars of herbs and spices for metal contaminants.

What attracted Mertes to the ECOLINE-D was the GLS coil technology that allows an exceptionally small, metal-free zone around the machine while maintaining the sensitivity demanded by Laux’s quality assurance policy. The entire length of the S+S system is only 750mm (29.5 in.) making it very easy to fit into the existing conveyor system. Although reliability and sensitivity are key considerations, the open, easily cleaned design that meets the strictest food industry hygiene standards combined with electronic control that makes operation simple and foolproof were also important considerations.

The modular design of the system simplified installation and maintenance. At Laux, a contaminated pack causes the conveyor to stop and a signal light to flash so the product can be removed manually. When automatic operation is required, the inspection system can be fitted with a range of automatic rejection devices.

“The S+S metal detection system gives us the sensitivity and reliability we need, combined with simple operation, straightforward maintenance and easy cleaning,” says Mertes. 

For more information:
Doug Pedersen; 716-297-1922; doug.pedersen@sesotec.com