Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Food inspection technology could kill waiter jokes

New inspection X-ray technology developed by European researchers is helping to ensure that the only thing in people’s dinners is the food itself.

Finding a snail in a salad, a fish bone in a supposedly boneless fillet or opening a soup packet to reveal mouldy contents is an unpleasant – and potentially unsafe – experience. Small foreign bodies and packaging defects are frequently not detected by food producers, but a new X-ray inspection technology developed by European researchers is ensuring that the only thing in people’s dinners is the food itself.

For consumers, a more effective method of inspecting food products before they reach supermarket shelves means better-preserved and cleaner food on their dinner tables – and a reduction in the risk of food poisoning.

An improved inspection system also means producers can offer better quality produce, reduce the risk of spoilage, and gain a competitive edge over rivals.

Already in use commercially, the technology developed by the Modulinspex project uses low-energy X-rays to produce highly detailed images of food products and packaged goods. The images are then scanned via inspection software that can automatically detect any irregularities accurately and quickly.

The system can be used to check seals on food wrappers, locate packaging defects and find foreign particles of any size in any kind of food, from maggots in apples to grains of sand in bread.

Even in an era of high food standards and sterilised packaged produce, those problematic foreign bodies and packaging flaws are more common than most people realise, says Jørgen Rheinlænder, the managing director of Denmark-based InnospeXion, which helped develop the technology. Rheinlænder was the project coordinator for Modulinspex.

“Go down to your supermarket and pick up a package of dried pasta,” he says. “About one in ten will have pieces of pasta trapped in the seal that can let air and moisture in and spoil the product.”

Rheinlænder notes, for example, that some bacteria may spread on poorly sealed produce and go unnoticed by consumers until they end up spending the next day on the toilet or at the hospital.

Lower energy, higher definition
Until now X-ray inspection technology used by food processors was dominated by high-energy intensity systems not unlike those used to scan luggage at airports. These are able to detect a pebble in a package of corn but lack the resolution to pick out a grain of sand in a bag of flour.

The higher-resolution alternative, low-energy X-rays, had not been used because it took too long to scan the produce and would slow the rapid pace of production in modern processing and packaging plants.

The European researchers working in the EU-funded Modulinspex project have brought both greater speed and accuracy to the table.

By attaching a CMOS chip to the crystal that detects the X-rays in a low-energy system they have been able to build a detector capable of taking 300 images per second, enough to capture a crisp image of products moving on a conveyor belt at half-a-metre per second.

The X-ray images have a resolution of 0.1 millimetres – 16 times better than existing high-power systems, making it possible to detect objects as small and fine as a herring bone.

Modularity for easy adoption
The system is also modular, allowing hardware and software components to be adapted to suit the needs of any producer in the food industry.

“Most X-ray luggage scanners at airports are virtually identical because one type works anywhere,” Rheinlænder explains. “In the food industry, however, everyone has different requirements depending on the speed of the production line, the type and size of products being scanned and hygiene regulations.”

The consortium of companies involved in the project has already sold three of their systems to companies in Spain, the United Kingdom and Denmark. The systems were bought after the project partners held a demonstration at the Scandinavian Food-PharmaTech exhibition last November in Denmark.

The Modulinspex system, known as MCIS, also received the exhibition’s award for innovation.

Enormous market beyond food
Curiously, none of the three systems that were sold are being used in the food sector, confirming, in Rheinlænder’s view, the broader range of applications for the technology.

In the UK, for example, the system is being used by a company to inspect filters delivered by an outside supplier, while in Denmark it is being used to check the quality of fur used to make coats.

“The market for this technology is truly enormous,” he says. “In the food industry alone we can expect growth rates in excess of 20%… and we also see a market for using it in manufacturing, to inspect seals on car components, for example, or to check for counterfeit products.”

Meanwhile, Rheinlænder foresees demand in the food sector being driven not only by producers who want to offer better quality products but also by increasingly stringent food safety regulations in Europe and elsewhere.

Modulinspex received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Development and Fast Analysis of 3D Printed HF Components

19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>